John 4:43-54 16/7/17 9.45 & 11.30am
By porthkerryandrhoose, Jul 18 2017 09:33AM
Anyone here enjoy watching magicians? I'm not beyond trying a little bit of simple magic myself - later on today I'll be sharing a card trick with the children in Messy Church. One of the most famous magicians today is Dynamo. He's pulled off some amazing illusions including levitating off the Shard and walking on the surface of the Thames, as well as doing tricks you can see close up. His latest tour is called 'Seeing is believing'. It's a phrase we use often 'I'll believe it when I see it'. But does seeing always mean believing? Is seeing amazing things necessary to have faith?
Those of you who have been following our series looking at John's gospel will remember that we have been looking at a very famous verse from John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." Over the last 2 sermons we've seen that 'whoever believes' really does mean 'whoever', as we met a woman from the wrong part of town with the wrong theology and the wrong lifestyle, yet Jesus offered her life and she believed. Today we're going to explore the next bit of 'whoever believes', as we answer the question 'what does it mean to believe?' Can something look like faith but not actually be faith? As we move on to today's verses from John we'll discover 2 types of faith: faith in miracles and faith in the one who is able to do miracles. Only one type of faith is saving faith.
Faith in miracles v43-45.
Jesus has spent 2 days with the Samaritans, talking to them and sharing the good news with them, and now he returns to Galilee. His reception is a very warm one v45 "When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover festival, for they also had been there." It all looks very positive. We know from 2:23 that while Jesus was at the Passover celebrations he'd been doing all kinds of miracles and people believed in him. Fantastic! But there's a warning note. In 4:44 John adds an aside "Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honour in his own country." So even this warm welcome isn't honouring Jesus, why? The answer is back in 2:24 "But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person." The miracles might have impressed the people, the people might even have believed in him as a miracle doer, but their hearts haven't been changed. The miracles, though genuine, have made no more difference to them than going to see a magician perform. They have faith, but only in the miracles.
Where is your faith? Is it in the things God provides? The good health, the happy relationships, the loving family, the good job? Do you need these things as proof that God is real and that he loves you? What happens when they are taken away? I have met many people who have lost their faith when things have stopped going well for them or their family. It's tragic, but it begs the question 'was their faith in the things God gives them or in the God who is the giver?' It's an important question for us to ask ourselves too, because faith in the things God gives is not the faith which leads to eternal life.
The miracles, however, are signs or pointers to who Jesus really is, and they can be a way in for some people. This seems to be the case for our royal official. Let's look at him in our second point: faith in the one who is able to do miracles v46-53. At a first glance this man seems just like all the others. He wants Jesus because he can heal his son, and Jesus' reaction to his request seems to confirm this v48 "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe." But there is more going on here. First of all, this man has travelled a long way to see Jesus. Capernaum is 18 miles away from Cana, which in the days before mechanised transport would have been at least a day's travel. He's determined. And he's not easily discouraged. Jesus' response to his request could be taken as a 'no' - no I'm not going to do any more signs. Jesus does sometimes say 'no' to us. Have you realised that? When we ask Jesus for something, he is at perfect liberty to say no, even when we're asking for something good and not selfish. Jesus can say no. He's the Lord. He decides. Yet how often do we behave like teenagers whose parents have said they can't go out when he does say no. I hate you. I'm not believing in you any more. Jesus can say no.
But this official is determined v49 "Sir, come down before my child dies." Jesus still says no, he's not going to Capernaum, but he does make a promise v50 "Go, your son will live." And here's the key verse "The man took Jesus at his word and departed". The man takes Jesus at his word. This is faith: taking Jesus at his word. Taking him at his word even when your whole world is falling in. Taking him at his word when there's no back up plan. Taking him at his word when everyone else thinks something different. The man doesn't question Jesus any more, he just sets off. And as he's on his way home his servants meet him with some wonderful news: his son is alive. As he questions them further he discovers that his boy got better at the exact time Jesus had said he would live. It's a wonderful miracle and the second sign that John records to show us who Jesus is.
Do you have a faith which takes Jesus at his word? Most of the promises Jesus makes to us in his word are ones for which we can have little proof, other than the fact Jesus has made them. He doesn't promise us health, wealth and happiness, things we can measure. He doesn't promise that everything will always go our way. He doesn't promise us signs and wonders to persuade us he's there. But he does promise us eternal life. He does promise that our sins can be forgiven, that we can have a new start with him. He does promise that he will never leave us nor forsake us. Will you take him at his word?
The royal official did and he saw his son healed. His faith had an impact on the whole family v53 "So he and his whole household believed". Don't ever underestimate the impact your faith can have on others, and don't give up when they seem untouched. Keep on taking Jesus at his word. [This is especially relevant for those who have come today with Ethan and Dylan. The way you think about Jesus, the way you speak about him, the priority you give to him will have a huge impact on how the faith of these boys grows. They have made a great start here, but they have some challenging years ahead as they move up through childhood into their teenage years. What you model for them is really important. If you're sitting there thinking I don't know what I believe, then remember that we're here to help you. Have a chat with me after the service. Don't put it off - it's really important.]
So, where is your faith? Is it in the things God has given you, or is it in the Lord who gives? The words of Jesus from near the end of the gospel are just as relevant here as they are after the resurrection 20:29, Jesus' words to Thomas "Because you have seen me you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." True faith takes Jesus at his word.