August 18, 2019 at First Presbyterian Church of Unionville, NY (BPC)
[Jhn 4:45-54 ESV] 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. 46 So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 When 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. 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. 51 As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. 54 This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.
Saving faith is belief in Jesus Christ himself as he is presented the Bible. It is faith in Jesus Himself. Faith in lesser things or lesser persons simply will not do. Nor will faith in some lesser view of Jesus pass for saving faith.
Some believe that Jesus was merely a worker of miracles. This is not saving faith.
Some believe that Jesus was a merely a great teacher. This is not saving faith.
Some believe that Jesus was merely a man or that he was a created angel. These are not saving faith.
Saving faith is is belief in the Jesus Christ of the Bible. It is faith in Jesus Himself. And the Bible presents Jesus as truly the Son of God and the Savior of His people. Saving faith in Jesus Christ is belief in him as the Son of God.
We see this truth in our passage today. A man comes to believe that Jesus Christ is not merely a miracle worker, but is the very Son of God. And his belief soon becomes that of his whole household.
We follow Jesus now as he leaves Samaria and heads to Galilee.
vs. 45 — Jesus welcomed in Galilee.
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.
What had Jesus done at the feast? – The passover feast in Jerusalem is when Jesus cleansed the temple by overturning the tables of the money-changers and with a whip driving them and their animals out of the temple. The fact that the Galileans now welcome Jesus is because they—at least some of them— had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast, and they applauded Jesus’s actions as righteous. The Galileans were not on the side of the Jews who had questioned Jesus regarding the cleansing of the temple, but were awed by what Jesus had done.
But the faith of the Galileans was faith in Jesus only the extent of believing that he was a miracle-worker. They did not yet have faith in Him as the son of God. They did not have saving faith.
Jesus then comes to the town of Cana in Galilee where he had turned water in the wine at the wedding. And there he meets a man, a government official, who has come from Capernaum to ask Jesus for a miracle.
vs. 46-47 — An official requests Jesus to heal his son.
And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 When 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.
This official had come to Jesus to ask for a miraculous healing of his son. His son was “at the point of death.” Not merely ill, but almost dead.
In this request of the official we see that he had some kind of faith in Jesus. He wouldn’t have come to Jesus otherwise. He believed that Jesus could work miracles. We’ve seen this same attitude before in the people at the feast in Jerusalem of whom it was said they “believed in his name when they saw the signs he was doing.” But though they “believed” yet “Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them.” That is, they did not have saving faith. They believed in Jesus only as a miracle-worker, and not as the Son of God. They didn’t have faith in Jesus himself.
So there is a faith that does not cut it. A faith that is not a saving faith. In multiple places we’ve seen the people believe merely that Jesus was a miracle-worker; they do not yet believe that he is the Son of God. They are seeking miracles, rather than seeking Jesus.
vs. 48 — Jesus chastises unbelief among the people.
Jesus then chastises those who have this insufficient faith. We read:
48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”
It is very important here that we understand that Jesus is not speaking merely to the official, but is speaking about all of the people. When Jesus says “Unless YOU see signs and wonders YOU will not believe” the “YOU” is plural. It is not just the official, it is all the people. They are seeking miracles, rather than seeking the savior. And this is an insufficient faith.
vs. 49 — The official persists.
But the official persists. His son is dying. He says to Jesus,
49 “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
He believes that Jesus can perform this miracle. But, he also mistakenly thinks that Jesus must physically go TO the child. He doesn’t realize that Jesus is the Son of God who can heal even from a distance. And the official doesn’t realize that Jesus’s power extends beyond death and that Jesus could even raise the child from the dead. And so the official pleads with Jesus for him to come down to Capernaum, and to come quickly, for his child is near death.
There is some faith here, but it is not yet faith in Jesus as he truly is. It is faith merely that Jesus can work miracles; it is not faith in Jesus Himself.
vs. 50 — Jesus heals and the official believes.
But—and here is the transition point of the story—when Jesus says “Go; your son will live” the official comes to a genuine faith. We know this because it is said, “The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.” He believed that Jesus could heal from a distance, and who can do that but the Son of God?
It is at this very point that the official believes with saving faith in Jesus himself. Yet not seeing signs and wonders the official believes Jesus’s words. Though later the healing is confirmed, the official believes BEFORE that confirmation. Though Capernaum is merely 16 miles away from Cana—maybe 4 or 5 hours by foot if the ground is flat—the official does not proceed home right away. He waits until the next day. So confident is he in Jesus’s words that he does not even need to rush home for his sick son.
The official believes Jesus’s words; he has saving faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
It is for this purpose that the Apostle John writes this Gospel. He says,“these things are written so that you may BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31)
THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN NON-SAVING AND SAVING FAITH
So it is absolutely crucial that we have faith in Jesus as he truly is. We must believe in the Jesus of the Bible; the very Son of God and our savior.
Various “scholars” (and I use that word in quotes) through the years have devised all sorts of views of who Jesus was. That he was a wise man. That he was a miracle-worker. That he was a man who believed himself to be the messiah.
But we believe—and we must believe—not in any scholar’s creation of who Jesus was, but we must believe in the Jesus of the Bible. And what does the Bible tell us about him? The Bible tells us that Jesus is more than just a man, he is more than just a miracle-worker; he is the very Son of God and savior.
Throughout Israel’s history God performed miracles. But this did not always lead to belief in him. It may have brought a certain kind of faith for a brief period, but we see again and again in the Old Testament that the people fall away from God. The parting of the Red Sea, the crossing of the Jordan, all the miracles of the Old Testament are more than sufficient to prove that God is worthy to be worshipped and to have his commandments followed. But the people time and again fall away from Him.
And we see in the New Testament that the desire though for miracles among the Jews continues to prevent them from looking to Jesus’s actual teachings.
These very Galileans had seen the signs of Jesus at the wedding at Cana, and then they were in Jerusalem and saw the sign of the cleansing of the temple. These should be sufficient. But they do not have true faith. They are interested in the miracles, not in Jesus.
Paul then notes in 1 Corinthians 1:22 that “Jews demand signs.” They will not believe in Jesus, and even miracles produce merely an insufficient faith.
This is why it is so important that we see that the official believed in Jesus BEFORE the miracle was confirmed. That is saving faith; not merely following the miracles, but following Jesus.
I think we can now better understand what the author of the book of the Hebrews says about faith. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
vs. 51-54 — The official believes and all his household with him.
But to return to the text, finding the exact hour in which the son was healed, the official learns that it was the same in which Jesus had made his promise. The chance of this being circumstantial is too small to consider. The miracle has been confirmed.
And then just as the Samaritan women went and told the town and they came to believe, so the official’s whole household comes to belief through him. He too was an evangelist for the Lord.
The body of the official’s on is healed; the soul of the official is healed, and now the souls of his whole household are healed. It is well with the body; it is well with the soul.
And in all of this, Jesus manifests his glory.
In this coming to faith of the official’s whole household, we see something important about God’s covenant. The covenant in the Old Testament is often stated as for “you and your offspring after you.” It is said to be “for you and for all future generations.” The sign of the covenant—baptism—then is for believers and their offspring; and often it is giving in the New Testament to the whole household.
Now I want to look at three applications from this passage.
1. This passage provides a clear argument against the “health and wealth” or “prosperity” Gospel. [REPEAT: This passage provides a clear argument against the “health and wealth” or “prosperity” Gospel.] The prosperity Gospel teaches that you will materially prosper in this life if you have faith in Christ. We know this is an error, not only because Paul teaches us that we will suffer as Christians, but also because John warns against miracle-seeking. Those who proclaim to follow Christ because they expect to gain financially from being a Christian are just like those in our passage who chase after miracles. Sure, the water turning into wine, the healing of a child; these are great things. But how much better is eternal life!? We are to seek first the Kingdom and God and His righteousness because eternal life is infinitely better than any earthly blessing. The rain does fall on the just and the unjust alike, but the blessing of eternal life is for God’s people. And we must rejoice in that blessing, following Jesus Himself, not primarily seeking after the material blessings which he gives us in the world. These material blessings will come in due time if the Lord wills. We must be patient. But having Jesus Himself, not merely blessings from God, should be our highest goal.
2. It frequently happens that our Heavenly Father, while he does not comply with our wishes in every particular, proceeds to relieve us by unexpected methods.[REPEAT: It frequently happens that our Heavenly Father, while he does not comply with our wishes in every particular, proceeds to relieve us by unexpected methods.]
The official wanted Jesus to come to heal his son. This was the officials only hope. Come and see my son that you might heal him. Does Jesus do this? No, he does not. But Jesus answers in an unexpected way. “Go; your son will live.”
So it is in our lives. We pray to God knowing only how he might solve an issue. But God’s answers, his ways, are above our ways. We do not always understand them, but they are great and He is mighty, and we should trust that He will answer in a wonderful way for he promises us that all things work together for good for those whom he has called according this purpose.
3. We should be greatly interested in theology. [REPEAT: We should be greatly interested in theology.] We should want to know about Jesus Himself. And when we study God’s word, we are blessed immensely. We should have great joy in studying God’s word, and in study about Him. Some are not interested in theology. They are not interested in God Himself. They are interested only in what they can get from God. But there is great joy in knowing the Lord, in learning from His Scriptures about Him.
Now, as we conclude today, I want to reiterate what has been the main point of the sermon:
We must have faith in Jesus Himself. True faith is belief in Jesus Christ and his words. Jesus is not merely a miracle-worker, He is the son of God.
Thus John says, “All these things are written that you may believe that Jesus Christ is the SON OF GOD, and believing you may have eternal life.” Not MIRACLE WORKER, GOOD GUY, etc. But SON OF GOD.
Our comfort must not be in miracles. Though the Lord performs miracles when He wills, and though he healed the officials son, someday that son did die. And someday we each too shall pass from this life. Miracles are temporary, but eternal life in Jesus Christ is forever.
So we find in the Heidelberg catechism a beautiful statement about our true comfort, seeking not the things of this world, but seeking Jesus Christ. The catechism asks:
Christian, what is your only comfort in life and death?
And it answers:
My only comfort is that I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.