Summary: There is no more helpless feeling in the world than being a parent with a dying child. That was the experience of the man in today’s passage. Out of his desperation, he came to Jesus. But because of the grace of Christ, that’s not how he left.
Many of you remember what was going on last year in Lakeland, FL. Around this time last year, Todd Bentley began making national headlines for the Lakeland Revival. Reports of 10,000 people per night came to see him and participate in these events. What attracted so many people to his events was the promise of physical healing. Whether you’re talking about Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson, Kenneth Copeland, Peter Popoff, Benny Hinn or a whole host of others they all promise the same thing. They promise that if you have enough faith, God is obligated to heal you through them. Of course, to them, having enough faith is often tied to how much money you give them. How completely and totally contrary to Scripture! You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to see what a fake these people are. And not just a fake. By all the standards of Scripture, each of them is considered a false prophet. Each is a false prophet who blasphemously invokes the name of God for their own vile purposes. They invoke the name of God to defraud people and take advantage of them in their weakest times of trouble. And people continue to watch them and support them and send them money. And worse yet, people continue to put their hope in them. But those of us who read and study the Bible should not be fooled, should we? Let me tell you a story about Dr. William Dembski.
Dr. Dembski is a professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, one of our Southern Baptist seminaries. By all accounts, he is a godly man and a wonderful, conservative Christian scholar. His theology is rock solid. Dr. Dembski is married with three children, two of whom are 7-year old twins. One of the twin boys is severely autistic. Many of us here are parents. As a parent, there is no more helpless feeling than when your child is sick. When CJ was in neonatal intensive care for 10 days after he was born, that was a horribly helpless feeling. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be told that your child has a disease like autism. Or to be told your child is dying. Out of that helplessness, a parent will do anything if there is a chance it will restore their child. That is what Dr. Dembski did. Contrary to his theology. Contrary to his reasoning and logic. Contrary to everything he had taught. He packed up his family, drove 130 miles and went to a Todd Bentley service in Denton, TX, July 3rd, last year. In his mind, he knew that God has the power to heal. He knew that God still will heal. But in his helpless desperation, he reached out to Bentley as the possible avenue of God’s healing. Of course, he was disappointed. As his wife took their 7-year old, severely autistic boy forward for healing, they were turned away after waiting for over an hour. In Dr. Dembski’s words, “Our son was refused prayer twice because he didn’t look the part…. And even those who looked the part seemed to look no better after Bentley’s prayer—the exodus from the arena of people [still] bound in wheelchairs was poignant.” The desperation of a helpless Daddy who knew better, led him to go to a man who plays on people’s desperation to take advantage of them. That speaks volumes for the ones who play on people’s desperation like that. But it also speaks volumes about the lengths a parent will go for their children. We are doers. We like to be able to fix things. And when we are faced with a situation we can’t fix, we feel helpless. And out of our helplessness, we become desperate. And when we become desperate, sometimes we look to things that we know won’t work. But when we are helpless and desperate, sometimes we feel better doing anything than doing nothing. I told that story not to highlight the false prophets. I told that story to highlight the helpless desperation of a daddy who would give anything to see his little boy healed. A daddy who could do absolutely nothing for his boy, but just had to do something.
That describes the man in our passage this morning. Verse 46 describes him as a nobleman. That means that he was a royal official. He was an officer in service to the empire. Since he was from Capernaum and not from Rome, that meant that he was one of Herod Antipas’ officials. Antipas was in charge of Galilee and Perea. And this nobleman was one of his main men. He was important. He was influential. When he spoke, people listened. But I don’t care what kind of power and influence you have in this world, when something happens to your children, you feel helpless. And helplessness wasn’t something this man was used to feeling. If there was a problem, you did whatever it took to get it fixed. Now, there was a problem at home. His son was sick. In this passage, three different original words are translated “son.” Later on in verse 51, when the servants come and give a report, they call him, “pais.” That’s just a plain word for boy that indicates they were familiar to him. It would be like if I looked at you and asked you how your boy is. When Jesus referred to the boy in verse 50, He called him “huios” which means “son”. It is a more proper term. It has more formality and dignity than calling him “boy.” Just like if I asked how your son is, instead of asking how your boy is. But the father didn’t call him either one of those words. The father called him, “paidion.” Paidion is a term of affection. It is a term of endearment. It has the feeling of calling him his “little boy.” Not so much as a reference to his size or age, but as a daughter is “Daddy’s little girl” no matter how old she is. It would be like if I was to tell you how my boy is doing. This man loved his little boy. Not only was the man an important and influential royal official, he was a daddy. And as that daddy knelt by his boy’s bedside, he felt helpless. As the boy’s fever began to spike and he cried out, his daddy couldn’t make it any better. I’m sure that he had mustered all his influence and resources to bring in all the best doctors he could find. I’m sure he had tried every home remedy and potion known to man. Nothing worked. Throughout the entire sickness, nothing worked. The fever only got worse. The agony and sickness only got worse. And the feeling of helplessness only got worse. Just like Dr. Dembski, that nobleman had to do something—even if he knew it wasn’t going to work. He had heard all the reports. He couldn’t help but hear about the man who had been going around healing people and doing miracles. He heard how Jesus raised quite a stir a few months back at a wedding in the area. Nobody had ever heard about Him before, but the rumor was that He took washpots full of water and turned it into fine wine. But then He left the area and headed down to Jerusalem. There were some more reports of all the things He did down there. They said that He healed a bunch of people and performed a lot of signs and wonders. There must be something to it, because they really rolled out the red carpet when He came back to Cana. He left in obscurity, but He was famous when He came back. I’m sure all of those things were going through that daddy’s mind as he helplessly watched his son. And then he had enough. He had to do something, so he headed up the long, steep road that led from his home in Capernaum to where the miracle worker was in Cana. The 16-mile walk up to Cana took a lot longer than it would take to get back because it was uphill the whole way. So going up there would take nearly 7 hours. But if he got on the road when the sun came up, he could be there by noon or one. He could have never imagined what would happen when he got there. Because, when that daddy came to Jesus, he came out of desperation. He didn’t come out of faith or expectation. He came out of desperation. But that’s not how he left there. Because he left there saved. Jesus moved that man from his point of desperation to a point of salvation. Out of the nobleman’s desperation, he came to the healer. But out of Christ’s divine grace, He saved the nobleman and his family. Oh, and by the way, the boy was healed. But the physical healing isn’t really the point, is it? The sickness of his son was what drove the daddy to Jesus in the first place. But Jesus was really almost casual and flippant about the healing. It was almost like the physical healing wasn’t that big of a deal to Him. But God, in His almighty providence, used a daddy’s love for his hopelessly sick little boy to bring salvation to that household. Some might say that it was the nobleman’s faith that caused Jesus to heal the boy. If you read the Text, you know that can’t be true. The healing was by the grace of Christ. There was no faith there. The man didn’t believe in Jesus when he came to Him. He thought Jesus was a human miracle worker, not the Christ, the Son of the living God. We know that because he thought that Jesus had to be physically present with the boy in order to heal him. Verse 47 says that he, “besought Him that He would come down and heal his son.” He thought that Jesus had to pack up and head to Capernaum to do his magic. There was no faith there. And another thing: it says that the man “besought” Jesus. That literally means that the man was pestering Jesus over and over and over again to come right now. It was urgent! His boy was dying and he needed Jesus go get to him and fix him right now before it was too late. So, in the nobleman’s eyes, Jesus’ magic was limited by death. After death happened, it was too late for Jesus. There was no faith there. There was only a daddy’s last ditch desperate attempt to do something—anything.