Your Son Lives
St. John 4:46-54 (10/16/16)
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.
St. John 4:50 Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way.
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our Lord… In today’s Gospel reading Jesus has returned to Cana of Galilee. That, of course, was where the very first of our Lord’s recorded miracles took place in the Gospel of St. John where Jesus turned water into wine. It was not just a little water, but between 120 and 150 gallons of water that were turned into wine. And it was not just ordinary wine, but very fine wine, the best, in fact. Jesus always does things the best way, the perfect way, and He does them for our eternal good.
Now Jesus has returned to Cana, “and there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum” (v. 46). This nobleman was probably a royal officer, either military or civil; therefore he was a man of some stature, and was, therefore, well-respected. We don’t know his name; for that matter we don’t need to know his name. Only the name and work of Jesus is important for our consideration today.
The nobleman had a son who was sick. The son was at Capernaum, some 20 miles away, which tells us that this nobleman had traveled about a day’s journey to plead with Jesus on behalf of his son. How did this man know Jesus was in Cana? We can only guess, but it may have been that this man was either at Cana when Jesus had turned the water into wine, or that he had certainly heard about this miracle from others. Either way, the man knows that Jesus can help him.
“When [the nobleman] heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death” (v. 47). In this we see that the nobleman believed that Jesus had the power to heal his son. This does not necessarily say that the nobleman believed and trusted in Christ for forgiveness and salvation. That may have been the case, but the Holy Spirit does not reveal that through St. John. All it suggests to us is that the man had heard of Jesus’ works and miracles, and that he had come to Jesus to see if He would heal his son.
We see this all the time in our day and age. People with all manner of diseases flock by the hundreds, even thousands, to some “faith-healer” or doctor in hopes that their disease may be healed. They may not have Christian faith in these “healers,” but their situation in life has been such a burden that they are quite willing to try anything. The nobleman is in such a predicament; his son “was at the point of death.” He was desperate, he was willing to try anything, and so he came to Jesus with absolutely nothing to lose.
The other thing we notice about the nobleman is that he required Jesus to be present in order to heal his son: “He implored [Jesus] to come down [to Capernaum] and heal his son, for he was at the point of death… ‘Sir, come down before my child dies!’” The nobleman believed that only Jesus’ physical presence could bring about his son’s healing.
How very unlike a certain centurion who, at another time, when Jesus offered to come to his house to heal his servant, expressed confidence that Jesus need not do so, but could heal from afar, saying, “Only speak a word, and my servant will be healed,” (Matthew 8:8) and confessing his unworthiness to have Jesus come to his house. In this comparison we see the difference between fascination about Jesus and faith in Jesus. One man, fascinated by stories about Jesus’ works, is convinced that nothing less than Jesus’ physical presence will be good enough, while the other man believes strongly that Jesus only needs to speak a word from afar and his servant would be healed. That, dear friends, is the nature of faith; faith is satisfied with the Word of God alone.
So, this nobleman’s faith, such as it is, is weak at best. When he says to Jesus, “‘Sir, come down before my child dies!’” he is saying, “Yes, Lord, my faith IS weak; help my unbelief!” He is desperate, he is helpless. He is just like you and me. When faced with troubles and situations that knock us down and drag us out, we feel helpless, powerless, and completely out of control…which may just be exactly where our Lord wants us to be, for only then, you see, are we truly open to the Lord’s help; only then are we ready and willing to give up on our own abilities and trust in something outside ourselves.
That, dear friends in Christ, is the ONLY place for our trust to be – outside of ourselves and onto and in Christ. Our works, our merits, our abilities will get us nowhere with God, especially regarding salvation and forgiveness. For in and of our sinful nature we cannot please God.
Martin Luther said it most brilliantly in the opening words of the meaning to the Third Article of the Creed: “I believe that I cannot, by my own reason or strength, believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him…” As long as we insist that we have the answers to life; as long as we insist that we must have a part in our own salvation – other than being a passive recipient – , well, then, we will never have it. The hymn, “Salvation Unto Us Has Come,” echoes this biblical truth when it says, “Faith clings to Jesus’ cross alone and rests in Him unceasing.”
Which brings us to another important aspect of faith… Faith always has an object; faith always has something in which it trusts. You are not saved by your faith. You are saved by Jesus in whom your faith trusts. It is as St. Paul writes to the Ephesians (2:8-9): “It is by grace you are saved, through faith, and this is not of yourselves – it is a gift from God; not by works lest any man should boast.” The grace that St. Paul talks about in this passage is the very work of Christ. It is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ who lived, died, and rose in your place and for you – that is what saves you.
Therefore it is the work of Christ taking your place in suffering for your sins, dying for your sins, and being raised again on the third day, that saves you. The faith that God gives to you through the preaching of His Gospel – THAT faith believes what Christ has done. So, again, you are not saved by your faith; you are saved by Jesus in whom faith trusts and believes.
It is this same Jesus who said to the nobleman, “’Your son lives!’” And notice that Jesus did not physically go to the nobleman’s son but simply spoke the words and the boy was healed. It is the very Word of God in Christ which brought healing and restoration to the boy. And not only by this Word is the boy healed – at the very hour when Jesus spoke the Word – but this nobleman is given greater faith like the faith of the centurion. For now, as St. John records, “the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way” (v. 50).
As was mentioned at the beginning of this sermon, this story is not really about the nobleman or his son; it is about Jesus and His Words and works. It is just that way here in the Divine Service too, for we are not here primarily to focus on ourselves or any work of man, but on Jesus and the gifts He gives to us.
For it is the same Word of God “in and with the water” that gives forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. It is the same Word of God, along with the bodily eating and drinking which are the main thing in the Sacrament of the Altar that, through wine, bread, and Word give us forgiveness of sins and strengthen our faith. It is the same Word of God spoken by the pastor “as from God Himself” which delivers the forgiveness of sins in Holy Absolution by which our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.
Jesus said to the nobleman, “Your son lives!” Jesus’ words delivered the healing; Jesus’ words delivered life; Jesus’ words delivered faith. And because the very Son of God lives, you also have life, forgiveness, and faith. These are the things that are most important. For you also, like the nobleman, by God-given faith “believe the Word that Jesus spoke…” And you too may go your way this day in the confidence of Christ’s love and forgiveness for you.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.