If I told you there’s a city called Paris and it has this thing called the Eiffel Tower would you believe me? Why? Because you believe the testimony of those who have been there, 5.5 million of whom have posted pictures of themselves in front of the thing on their personal web sites.
Now, what if someone told you there was a place in Wurzburg that’s identical to an Outback Steakhouse? It would depend who told you and how much you trust their authority. Whether or not you made the trip would depend not only on how much you believed but also upon how much you wanted a "Bloomin’ Onion."
C.S. Lewis wrote "I have to believe that Jesus was (and is) God. And it seems plain as a matter of history that He taught His followers that the new life was communicated in this way. In other words, I believe it on His authority. Ninety-nine percent of the things you believe are believed on authority... The ordinary person believes in the solar system, atoms, and the circulation of the blood on authority--because the scientists say so. Every historical statement is believed on authority. None of us has seen the Norman Conquest or the defeat of the Spanish Armada. But we believe them simply because people who did see them have left writings that tell us about them." (C.S. Lewis "A Grief Observed")
In our conversation with Jesus today we find a man who comes to Jesus because of the information he has heard about Him. He comes not altogether knowing what to believe but simply knowing that He has a need that no one else can fill. In this story we are able to watch the faith of this man grow as a result of his conversation with Jesus... It is a faith which begins as a...
vv. 46-48 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."
So far all the man knows is that people have said Jesus has worked miracles. He doesn’t know for certain what he believes but he’s reaching out to Jesus, because his need is great.
ILLUSTRATION: There’s an old story about a traveler in the early days of the west. When he came to a large river, he discovered there was no bridge. Fortunately it was winter and the great river was sheeted over with ice. But the traveler was afraid to trust himself to it, not knowing how thick it was. Finally with infinite caution, he crept on his hands and knees and managed to get halfway over. And then he heard--yes he heard singing from behind. Cautiously he turned, and there, out of the dusk, came another traveler, driving a four-horse load of coal over the ice, singing as he went!
This is a picture of the royal official in this passage--he’s come to the solid rock, but he’s not ready to rest his weight upon it. It’s clear that Jesus understands that this is not someone who’s coming to Him to put his trust in him as Messiah and Savior--but that’s OK, Jesus takes him where he’s at in his faith.
This is a picture of us too, we come to Jesus, trembling, hurting, not knowing, not understanding, but hoping. Jesus takes us where we’re at. But, thank God He doesn’t leave us where we’re at. He takes us a step further to...
vv. 49-50 The royal official said, "Sir, come down before my child dies." Jesus replied, "You may go. Your son will live." The man took Jesus at his word and departed.
Notice that the man doesn’t seem to have patience for Jesus’ enigmatic reply about needing signs to believe. It’s as if the Lord has invited him into a dialogue about eternal things like those he had with Nicodemas and the woman at the well, but the man is to focused upon his immediate problem. Jesus, doesn’t seem to be rattled by this though. Jesus promises to give the man what he asks for and the text says that the official took Him at His word and departed.
Is he trusting in Jesus at this point? Yes but not fully. He’s trusting him for one thing--the healing of the child, We know he’s not got a full tank of faith at this time because a couple verses later the text clearly says he began to "believe" after the healing is confirmed. But he is trusting in Jesus for this one thing.
This is what has been called temporal faith. Trusting the Lord for the things of this life. Anyone who’s taken a test they haven’t studied for knows this kind of faith. There are a couple of problems with this faith though, first of all when the crisis is passed the need for the faith goes away. Also if the Lord doesn’t answer according to our plan we can loose faith altogether.
ILLUSTRATION: Atlanta Tycoon Ted Turner, founder of CNN, TBS, TNT and various other enterprises, has more than once incited the ire of the US Christian community. Once he described Christianity as "a religion for losers" and another time he asked Catholics at CNN whether they were "Jesus freaks" when they arrived for work on Ash Wednesday with crosses on their foreheads.
What you may not know about him is that he wasn’t always so anti-Christian. In fact he revealed in an interview with the New Yorker magazine in April 2001 that he had once planned to become a missionary, but he turned his back on Christianity after watching his younger sister die a slow and painful death from an immune system disease when he was a teenager. He told the New Yorker, "I couldn’t understand how someone so innocent should be made or allowed to suffer so." (Mark Riley, Sydney Morning Herald, Aug. 25, 2001)
This is the problem with temporal faith, it’s dependent upon "what have you done for me lately" and it’s not the kind of faith that Christ desires in our life, he doesn’t want us to trust in him just for the things of life--He wants us to trust him WITH our lives, beyond our lives. That’s the point of the statement earlier "Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders you will never believe." It’s not a rebuff--It’s just that He wants more for us. He wants us to experience...
vv. 51-53 While 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.
Earlier the text said that he had taken Jesus at his word, now it says that He and his household believed? What’s the difference? Well now it’s not just a belief that the boy will be healed--that no longer requires faith, it’s a fact. Now He has become a BELIEVER, he believes that Jesus is who He claims, the Messiah, savior, now trusting in Jesus he has passed from death to life--it’s no longer just about the earthly life of the boy it’s about eternal life.
Verse 54 calls this not just a miracle but a "miraculous sign"--the power Jesus holds over this particular life (the life of the boy) is symbolic of Jesus ultimate power of life.
In our last two conversations with Jesus, He promised eternal life to those who put their trust in Him. Here the royal official and his family become partakers of the living water and receive life everlasting, by believing in Jesus.
ILLUSTRATION: Jean Francois Gravelet, the great Blondin, was the first tightrope walker to appear at Niagara Falls. On June 30, 1859 the rope was in position and at five o’clock in the afternoon Blondin started the trip that was to make history. As he began his ascent toward the Canadian shore, he paused, steadied the balancing pole and suddenly executed a back somersault. Never content merely to repeat his last performance, Blondin crossed his rope on a bicycle walked blindfolded, pushed a wheelbarrow, cooked an omelet in the centre and made the trip with his hands and feet manacled. And then, he announced that on August 19 he would cross the gorge carrying his manager, Harry Colcord, on his back. (http://www.niagara-info.com/historic.htm)
He later confessed that the trip had been a nightmare, but on that day, Harry Culcord had demonstrated absolute faith. He didn’t just believe that Blondin could make the trip, he entrusted his life to him.
Jesus is asking us not just to hand him the things of our life to carry across the great divide in a wheelbarrow. He invites us to crawl upon His back, to trust him with our very lives. Nothing less will do.
Charles Spurgeon once said, "I would recommend you either believe God up to the hilt, or else not believe at all. Believe this book of God, every letter of it, or else reject it. There is no logical standing place between the two. Be satisfied with nothing less than a faith that swims in the deeps of divine revelation; a faith that paddles about the edge of the water is poor faith at best. It is little better than a dry-land faith, and is not good for much. (C.H. Spurgeon, sermon entitled "Is God in the Camp?")
Jesus cares about all the things of your life, your health your family, your job, school, relationships. He demonstrates His care for the officials need by healing the boy. But he’s interested in so much more. He wants to make your life richer and fuller in the here and now, but He wants to make your life perfectly full by making it an everlasting life with Him
Today we remember the sacrifice that Jesus made to secure his promise of eternal life for each of us. In order to make the promise a reality Jesus paid the price of death for us all. He took the penalty for our sins in His own body. He shed his blood so that our debt would be paid. Before he went to the executioner, he celebrated a final meal with those closest to him and instructed them that they should repeat this meal regularly, symbolically to remember the sacrifice that he made.
Today we celebrate that last supper. If you have trusted in Jesus for eternal life, you are free to join us in that celebration. If you haven’t, why not do it today. Simply say in your heart, "Jesus I thank you for paying the price for me, now I trust in you with all of my life, now and forever." And then join us in this meal of remembrance as a new believer in Jesus.
If you say that prayer for the first time today, write down your decision on a piece of paper, with the date, then share it with someone you know is a Christian before you leave here today, share it with me if you don’t know who else to go to. Friends, if someone shares a decision with you today come to me so I can get you some help in getting them started in their faith.