Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 20, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 4:43-54. Today we continue to walk through the Gospel of John verse by verse. For those who are visiting today, we at Cornerstone see great value in the teaching and preaching entire books of the Bible, verse by verse. This protects us from our sinful biases of picking the easy stuff. Today is a great example of why preaching through an entire book from start to finish is so beneficial, for today we are examining a miracle of Jesus that, to the casual observer, is a dime a dozen. But as we shall see there is more than meets the eye. So let us read our text, pray, and see what it God has to say to us today.
Things are Not as They Seem
If you notice, in today’s sermon, I did not start with verse 46, the place that the ESV puts a heading “Jesus Heals an Official’s Son.” Instead I reached back to verse 43. Why? Because these two verses lay the foundation for the rest of the passage. Which brings up an important point. Headings and chapters and versus are not original to the text, so do not be limited by them. When you are pursuing the truth within the text, read around the text. This is what we call Biblical context, not reading a verse in isolation, but reading it within the flow of thought of the author. The danger of not looking at the context is that you might miss the main point of what God is trying to say to you, which I think it at risk in this story.
At first glance when you read verses 46-54 you may simply conclude that this story is about Jesus performing a miracle, nothing more than that. Guy comes to Jesus and makes a request for his Son, Jesus snaps his fingers, miracle is done. As I said earlier, we have seen this kind of thing before. In fact, because you have read about Jesus performing so many miracles you may find this text boring. But, is this story really about the performance of a miracle, or is there more?
Look at verse 43 and 44, “After the two days he departed for Galilee. 44(For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.).” At the beginning of verse 44 in the ESV it says “For.” The NIV, NLT and several other Bible translations do not have this word in their translation. The editor's take it out. However, this word really does exist in the original Greek. It is the Greek word “gar”. The ESV, the NASB and the New King James all keep this word in. This is one reason why we use the ESV and not the NIV or the NLT. It is missing words.
Now the question is, do these words matter? Lets look again at our text. “After the two days he departed for Galilee. 44(For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.)” The word “for” is a conjunction. It connects two thoughts and helps us understand those thoughts in relationship with each other. The word “for” points to the reason that Jesus is going to Galilee. Without that “for” you don’t connect that verse 44 is the reason for verse 43. Jesus was going to Galiee because he said that he won’t be honored. That seems strange doesn’t it? Jesus is going to Galilee because he knows that Galilee will not recognize that he is the Son of God.
To make things even more confusing, look at verse 45. “So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.” Once again, NIV doesn’t have the word “so”, but in the Greek it is there. It is the word “oun”. Many times it is translated to “therefore”, here the ESV chose the word “so.” “So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him.” How strange. Jesus is going to Galilee because they won’t honor him, but when he arrives does it appear that he is dishonored? No, at least not to us. The picture we are given is open arms, welcoming. What is going on?
Lets look at why they are welcoming him. Verse 45, “So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.” The reason that his hometown area welcomed him is because “all that he had done in Jerusalem.” What had he done?
Flip back to John 2:23, “Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing.” What Jesus was doing was signs. This is John’s word for miracles, signs. Many of these Galileans were at Jerusalem watching Jesus perform signs and because of those signs they “believed in his name.” The signs produced a belief. But as we said several weeks ago, what kind of belief? Let’s keep reading. John 2:24-25, “But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.” The belief that these people had as a result of his signs was not a belief could be trusted. It was a belief that was their today and gone tomorrow. It was a fleeting belief.
So turn back to John 4 in Galilee, as Jesus steps back into his hometown, everyone has been talking about the Son of Mary and Joseph, the brother of James, Joses, Judas and Simon. They were excited to see him, they welcomed him. Why did they welcome him? The signs. They loved the signs.
The Idol of God’s Gifts
And this type of welcome was not the welcome that Christ desired. This was not the honor that a King deserved. He was not some wizard, he was not some traveling healer, he was God incarnate. The Lord. Yet the people worshiped the signs, and not Him. This is what their faith was built upon. They would welcome Jesus as long as he made their life comfortable.
What a stark contrast from Samaria. There is not one recorded miracle that Jesus performed in Samaria. The reason the people of Sychar believed in Jesus was because of the Word, that was it. They believe he was the Messiah because He said he was the Messiah. No miracle needed. Just truth.
This problem of demanding signs was not isolated to this one moment in time Galilee. It was a predominate problem throughout Jesus' ministry in Israel. The people flocked to him because the miracles he performed, whether it be the feeding of the 5,000 or raising Lazarus from the dead. As long as Jesus kept producing wonders, they continued to be his groupie.
In fact, this is a main theme found in Palm Sunday. The people of Jerusalem laid down their cloaks and waved palm branches and welcomed him with great splendor. But all of that changed later in the week when they saw this so called King imprisoned, beaten, weak and they cried out “crucify Him, crucify Him.” Their belief in him was built upon the shifting sand of circumstances, not upon the rock of who Jesus was.
I would like to say that this problem of worshiping the miracles of Jesus, and rejecting the Lordship of Jesus ended in Galilee, but it is present today at a shocking magnitude. Unfortunately, this world is full of people who welcome Jesus into their life only for the purpose of using him. Their faith is built upon circumstances. They receive God only as long as things work out for them. Treating God as a genie in a bottle. Palm branches waiving when the sun is shining and the money is flowing in and kids are healthy, but the moment tragedy strikes they are done with God.
Jesus is not honored in their life. He is treated like a candy machine. They do not see Jesus as their greatest treasure, but instead they see his gifts as their greatest treasure. They do not love Christ, they love the blessings of Christ. It is very similar to being rich. When you are rich you have friends who are not really your friends. They do not love you, they love your money. This is not the honor that Jesus seeks from you. He seeks the honor that comes from loving him no matter what your life looks like. It is the honor that renounces all that you have to follow Christ. It is the honor exemplified in Hebrews 11 where a long list of God's true followers who “suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.37They were stoned, they were sawn in two,a they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—“ The faith of these people was not dependent signs and wonders and health and wealth. Their faith was built upon Jesus.
There is a song by Shane and Shane that some of you have heard named, “Though You Slay Me” and the chorus says this, “Though You slay me Yet I will praise You, Though You take from me, I will bless Your name, Though You ruin me, Still I will worship, Sing a song to the one who's all I need.” This is why honors God, to love him no matter what.
An Unwelcomed Welcome
Now in light of all this, let us now look at verse 46, “And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.” So imagine the heaviness of this father’s heart. He loves his son more than anything. He is dying. Most likely he has tried everything he can think of to save his son: food, rest, doctors, medicine, you name it. My guess is that he has not slept or ate very well since his child was sick; perhaps when he did sleep he cried himself to sleep. In a last ditch effort, he rushes down to Cana desperately looking for this man named Jesus. And when he finds him, he asks Jesus to come and heal his son.
What is surprising is Jesus’ response. Verse 48, “So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” This man is broken before Jesus, desperately seeking his help, the only thing on his mind is his son, and Jesus appears not to care.
I want us to think about this for a second. Is the response of Jesus loving? Is it loving to blow off the request and lecture this man about his lack of faith in a time of great anguish? Absolutely. Jesus is God and God is love. Everything Jesus does in his life is the purest of all love. Jesus is loving that man better than he has ever been loved before. However, the problem is not with the love of Jesus, but our definition of love.
Our cultural definition of love is feeling loved. So for example, if you said something to me that made me feel bad, I would say that you don’t love me. My emotion towards your response defines whether your action is loving or not loving.
John Piper has termed this emotional blackmail. This is what he has said about this issue: “Not feeling loved and not being loved are not the same. Jesus loved all people well. And many did not like the way he loved them.” Our story could fit this. It is possible that Jesus’ response could cause this man to not feel loved. This man may not have liked the way Jesus handled his pain, but make no mistake it was perfectly loving. Because this man's lack of faith in Jesus had more dire consequences then his son being sick.
If you are Bible saturated and Holy Spirit driven, this will happen to you. Someone will come to you with a problem, with a heavy heart, and you go to God’s Word and you try to apply it to the best of your ability. And the person who is hurting feels rejected because you didn’t make them feel good. Your answer to their pain is not what they wanted to hear, and the pain still exists, and their feelings is all that matters to them. Therefore, in their eyes, in the world’s eyes, you are unloving.
But we must remember, we must love according to God’s definition, not the worlds. We must love as Jesus loved. We must love in truth, trusting in Him and His ways to heal their hearts. In our text for today, Jesus looked into the heart of this man and spoke about the greater problem in this man’s life. For this man, his god was his son. As he stood before Jesus, this was all that was on his mind, his dying son. And as he looked at Jesus all he saw were his miracles, a healing man. He was blind to the reality that Jesus was Lord of the Universe. This official was not giving Jesus the honor He deserved. And Jesus knew it, because he knew every man. And this was the greatest problem for this official and his family.
At this point in the story, however, we see a shift. Everything up to now is a focused on the sin of Galilee, this man included. They do not honor Christ. They are coming to Him for the wrong reasons. They are blind to the reality that he is the Son of God. These people have spent their entire life rejecting God, and now God stands in their midst and they treat him like a sugar daddy. Jesus does not minimize their sin. He addresses it right to their face. Just like he did the the Samaritan Women about her sexual sins. But after he confronts their sin, what does he do? Poor his wrath out on them? No, he loves them. Verse 50, “Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.”
This is why I love Jesus! This man deserved Hell, but instead he tasted Heaven. This man did not deserve God's grace, but Jesus gave it anyway. This man would not believe unless he saw a sign, so what did Jesus do, he gave him what he needed, a sign. And not just any sign, but a sovereign sign. He was not some wandering magician, he was God. And after seeing the power of Christ what was the man's response? He believed, him and all his family. Why did Jesus do this? Because Jesus is full of grace.
This is who God is, a God who demands to be honored, a God who requires our worship. However, because we are slaves to sin, we have no capacity to give him the worship that he deserves. But because our God is a God of love he does a miracle in our life and pours out his sovereign grace upon us and gives us the eyes to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus.
As I said, on the first palm Sunday the people of Jerusalem welcomed Christ. Five days later they crucified him. Above his head while he hung on that cross there was a sign that said, “The King of the Jews.” This moment in time was the pinnacle of dishonor, to kill the Author of life, but in his last moments Jesus cried out these miraculous words, “Father, forgive them for the know not what they do.” In the moment of his death, he bled grace. And it is the display of this glorious grace that cuts our heart and causes us to believe that Jesus truly is the Son of God.