Summary: Looks at how a person's faith grows. Expanded outline. Next in sermon series through John
John 4 (4)
A growing faith
I will never forget one of the worst phone calls I have ever gotten. I was a pastor in Mississippi. Gladys and I had just taken a group of our youth to youth camp in east Tennessee, where her brother was serving as the camp missionary that week.
The second day of the camp I got a call from some friends and former church members in Arkansas telling me a youth from my former church, from where i had served as a youth pastor, had just fallen from a cliff and died.
Please come do Eugene’s funeral.
Oh, can anything break the heart of a parent like the loss of a child? Can anything grieve a parent like fear of losing a child?
This is the account of a man whose son was dying. We do not know the precise nature of the son’s illness except that he had a high fever and was near the point of death. We do not know the son’s name or his age but there is a hint in the text that he is not yet an adult. The mother is not mentioned in this story but we can assume that she shared her husband’s profound concern.
I think this is every parent’s deepest fear—that somehow, someday, in an accident or by illness or through some other means our children will be taken from us. Nothing seems more unnatural than the death of a child. It is a prospect so terrible that we can hardly think of it, much less speak of it in public. Having to bury one of our own children is a tragedy we silently pray we will never have to endure. But it does happen. J. C. Ryle points out that the first recorded death in the Bible was not of a father but of a son—when Cain killed Abel. And when the Apostle Paul points out that death has come to “all men” (Romans 5:12), he doesn’t mean just grown-up men, he means the entire human race—young and old alike, rich and poor, male and female. Death has come and will come to all of us sooner or later. But when death draws near to the young, it brings the parents to a moment of personal crisis. This is how C. S. Lewis put it in A Grief Observed (p. 25):
You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it? … Only a real risk tests the reality of belief.
When your child is sick, you don’t care about test results, x-rays, percentages, new medicines, research protocols, or anything like that. When someone’s child is sick, people just want to know one thing: ‘Is my child going to be all right?’” Nothing else matters. Everything else is just details.
In this passage, an important man comes to Jesus, at a time of crisis; and through this account we see an example of a growing faith.
I. A BEGINNING FAITH - 46-47
1. The man had a desperate need. His son was sick.
Hard times come in everyone’s life. No one is exempt from difficulties, pain, or suffering in this life, in this world. It’s been said that God and 1 Son without sin, but no children without suffering and pain.
2. This man had heard about Jesus. We don’t know what he had heard exactly. We don’t know if he had heard that Jesus was a miracle worker. We don’t know if he had heard that Jesus was a great teacher or what. All we know for certain is that he had a need and when the need came to his life, he went to one he thought might be able to help.
And this was no simple or easy thing. The place he was from was about 18 miles away - 6 hours of walking or 2 hours by chariot.
He was a government official. He was a person of importance and prominence. He wasn’t used to asking anyone for anything. He gave orders and things happened.
He was part of Herod’s government. He was part of a corrupt and self-promoting government. He was part of a wicked government. It would not look good if word got back to those he worked for and worked with is they heard that he had gone down to see this itenerent preacher. But he went.
He had a need. He didn’t know or care what other people might say or think, he went where he thought he could find some help.