Cling To His Word
I want to invite you guys to the book of John chapter four. That’s where we are today, book of John chapter four. As I think about this passage, let me just start it off this way. Have you ever been in one of those moments where you get a phone call and someone unexpectedly, it’s one of those calls that just rocks your world? And someone says to you, “Something bad’s happened. I don’t know how to tell you this but they’ve taken a turn for the worst. If you don’t get here soon, you’re not going to see them again. They’re fading fast. Come quickly.”
Maybe you’ve been there. Hopefully not, but maybe you have. Maybe you can even think of a loved one, a parent, a sibling, a spouse, a child, a friend where that news enters into your life and tragedy strikes.
When you go through the type of grief of that experience, your soul aches at a depth that words can’t even express. It’s in those moments that you realize the frailty of humanity. We, as people, we have a problem that we can’t overcome and a big problem needs a big god. That’s what John chapter four is. When you enter into this passage of scripture, that’s exactly what we discover. Big problems need an even bigger god. In verse 46, listen to how this story starts, “Jesus went to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water and wine.” Remember where the story begins? Jesus’s ministry is pronounced here. He turns water into wine, John chapter two. Then, he goes to Jerusalem during the Passover and that’s where he breaks out the whip and starts cracking the whip on people.
Then, he meets Nicodemus at night and then he runs into the woman at the well. Then, he comes back up to the same region from where his ministry started. So, he’s returned to that area again. Then, it goes on, “At Capernaum, there was an official whose son was ill. 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.”
It says to us in the story, “Someone’s child is sick and dying.” Some of us know what the struggle is like over the health of your child. You would do anything for them. You can’t stand to see their pain and you would gladly take their place to save their life. When I think about this, I just consider more than just the physical battle that takes place here. I think there’s a spiritual battle that exists as well.
I think Satan even knows, if he can’t get us directly by tempting us or luring us in person or trying to directly impact us that way, he can go after our family. He can tempt us that way. How many of us, when our child gets sick, we’re gripped with worry or fear, maybe the adrenaline pumps? I know, as a pastor, probably one of the most frequent prayers that I have with people is with parents over their children and the struggle and the battle that takes place.
What’s interesting in this passage, in verse 46, what John wants us to definitely know about this person that comes to Jesus, is that he is an official. Why does that matter? Describes this man this way, he’s an official. I think what it’s saying to us is that all that the world has to offer, all of the resources, he knows the people in higher positions. He has the ability to call on someone in his time of need. He has the greatest things life has to offer at this point in time. It’s at his fingertips. But the one thing that he lacks is the ability to transform this moment that he would change more than anything else in this world.
This story exposes, for us, the façade of power and the weakness of humanity. This guy has a big problem and he needs a big solution. To the point that he drops everything that he’s doing at the mention of the thought that Jesus is returning to the region of Galilee. What would it take for you to give Jesus that same opportunity? How far would you be willing to go?
I looked this up, just out of curiosity, on Google Maps. I got a map on the screen. I just typed it in, Capernaum to Cana of Galilee. Low and behold, it actually still fits on the map. You can look it up today. If you were to make that journey yourself, and I can imagine how this guy… this guy definitely didn’t travel by automobile. He hears the rumor, the possibility, that Jesus is returning to at least somewhere in the region that he lives. But it’s actually over 20 miles from where his town is at and off the possibility of being able to make this journey and encounter Jesus, he goes. Apparently, there’s three routes that you can take, but all of them are at least seven hours long, if he’s going by foot. If he travels by horse he might be able to do it within a couple of hours.
He makes this journey to run into Jesus. How far are you willing to go for the struggles that you face, especially when it relates to your children? I think, in my life, I feel like I’ve taken too many visits to Shriner’s Hospital or Children’s Primary in Salt Lake. Don’t get me wrong, I’m thankful for places like that that exist, but how great would it be if it never had to again? You walk those halls and you see parents that are fighting for their children and children fighting for their life. How far would you go?
You see this man, this official. He doesn’t have the ability within himself to rescue his child, so at the possibility of encountering Jesus, he makes this journey in pain. Pain drives this man towards a solution. In verse 48, this is how Jesus responds when he finally encounters Christ. Jesus says to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” Jesus is beginning to teach this man this lesson that develops throughout his encounter with Christ.
Jesus is saying something different, something deeper here, that yes indeed, Jesus can come and Jesus can perform miracles, but the purpose for Jesus’s coming isn’t just about miracles. There’s something deeper in all of us that we need in Christ. And yes, Jesus can provide temporary relief here, but there’s more to the identity of Christ. Jesus even just got finished teaching this with the woman at the well in John chapter four verse 26. You remember the story where Jesus comes to the woman and she’s saying, “Jesus, you sound like a prophet.” She’s like, “I know there’s one coming who’s the Messiah and he’ll be responsible and he can rescue us.” Jesus looks at her and says, “The one who is before you, I am. I am he. I am that one.”
Jesus is identifying that what makes him so great isn’t what he can do, it’s who he is, because in who he is you find the greatness of what he does. To look deeper than just the action, but to the identity. That’s what this guy is beginning to learn about Jesus, as Jesus starts with this dialogue. But then in verse 49, you don’t even need any voice inflection to understand the angst of what this man says in verse 49. You can hear the pain in his own statement. Look at it. He says, “The official said to him, ‘Sir, come down before my child down.'”
How many of you think you would’ve made that kind of a statement with half-hearted tone? You see a story like this and you know it’s hard. Why? Because without even expressing it to a human soul, we know that we’re made for life and not for death. So, you can just feel the pain of this man’s statement, through the pages. Sir, come down before my child dies.
It’s interesting in this verse how he addresses Jesus. If we said, “Official, who is Jesus to you?” And he would just say, “I don’t even know. I’m just starting to hear stories about him. It’s gone all the way to Capernaum from this region of Cana of Galilee. So, I just know that I need to find him. Any possibility for my child, I just need to run after this solution.”
So, when he addresses Jesus, it’s not God. It’s Sir. It’s Sir. But God redeems the pain. I’m not saying in this story that God caused the pain, but the pain caused the man to come to Christ. Have you ever thought about it? What led you to come to Jesus? Or, if you’re not quite there, what has provoked you to even be curious about Jesus?
I think it’s rare that our story would be like, “My life was perfect and I needed nothing at all.” Who comes to Jesus that way? Usually, a story as it is coming to Christ is we recognize there’s a problem. There’s an unsettling in our soul, a disturbance, a need. We’re driven towards a solution. That struggle, that pain, that’s what drives us to Christ. That’s what the Gospel is, is it not? You think about the story. There’s sin in this world. The Gospel isn’t sin. The Gospel is good news, but there’s sin in this world. There’s a problem. We need hope. We need a solution. The Gospel becomes that hope that Jesus is that solution, that Jesus is that healing, that Jesus is that place that our soul finds reconciliation in Him. God redeems the pain.
I love the way Joni Eareckson Tada put it. If you’re not familiar with her, she’s a young lady, at 17 she was in a diving accident and it left her paralyzed. She’s a believer in Christ and, from that position, she’s gone around to just share from her own struggles how she has a walk with Jesus. But this is what she says, “Without troubles in this world, I wonder how many of us would actually be believers?” Interesting way to think about it. Because often times, I think, as Christians, we look at our struggles and we often see them contrary to the will of God. That when I want to discover God’s will for my life, it’s obviously the easiest road.
But she says, about her own life, she says, “I would rather know Jesus in this wheelchair than live without him on my feet.” If I’m being honest with myself, the trouble in my own life is the very reason I came to know Christ. It’s that tension that trouble brings that keeps me close to Christ.
Like this child in the story, we all need Jesus. I think this is what Jesus is saying to this leader in verse 48. It’s not just about these signs and wonders. Jesus comes and he does this for us to demonstrate the goodness of who he is, but there’s a deeper unsettling in our soul that Christ has come to answer.
In fact, Psalm 39 in verse four it says this to us, “Oh Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days. Let me know how fleeting I am. Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths. My lifetime is nothing before you. Surely, all mankind stands as a mere breath.” God, don’t let me live under the delusion or the façade of what life is.
There’s a frailty to my humanity, that it doesn’t matter my position, my power, my title, that one day it will come to an end. Without hope in you, what hope is there? That’s the image that Jesus wants this official to understand.
When I think about the idea of pain, I’m not just trying to make things difficult to make things difficult. I don’t want to pursue pain. I’m not saying, “Go out and make life hard for you.” But I am saying, “I’m thankful that God meets us there. I’m thankful for Jesus, who is willing to enter into our sufferings because he cares.”
There’s a god that cares about our flight in life and he wants to turn funerals into celebrations and redeem our struggles and our sufferings. So, this is what this man begins to learn of the story that Jesus’s word is sufficient for our need.
Often times, we just want to find temporal solutions, but Jesus is showing a deeper solution in him and that’s what he teaches this man in verse 50. Look at this. “And Jesus said to him, ‘Go, your son will live.’ And the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.”
I think about this, what else would this man believe in this passage, in this story? Because he just says to this man, “Look.” Jesus is saying, “Because I do miracles, that’s the reason? It’s not about just the miracles. You need to believe because of who I am. So, I’m giving you this statement.” What’s the guy going to say then, “Okay, that’s great, Jesus. But you still got to come with me.” No, Jesus gives a statement. He says, “Okay. Okay, Jesus. Sir, I’m going to take you at your word and do what you said.” Jesus is capable of doing what he says. His word is sufficient, so that just says to us that, simply, when Jesus says it, we should believe it. When Jesus says it, our souls should cling to those words.
I found myself, as a follower of Jesus, a disciple in him, I probably repeat that to myself as much as anything else in the Christian life. When I open up God’s word, Lord, help me retain this. Lord, help me see the value of what’s being expressed here, to see these words as life itself. That’s what Jesus teaches in this verse. Because I said it, that’s what makes it happen. It’s the authority of who I am. So, when I give that declaration, there is life. That’s what Jesus is communicating to this guy and what you see is he believes.
The reason that we know he believes is because he obeys. Belief and obedience, they’re not disconnected. What you truly believe, you obey. Sometimes when the words in our mouth don’t match our lifestyle, what we’re communicating is the words in our mouth aren’t really what we believe. What you believe, you obey.
I think for us, as people today, we don’t lack information. What we lack is obedience. What you see in this story is this guy, he comes to Jesus and he doesn’t know a whole lot about Jesus. That’s why he calls Jesus “sir.” He’s not really sure everything that this Jesus is yet. Then, Jesus gives him one statement and he does what every good disciple should do. He decides, you know what? I’m going to believe it. I’m going to follow it.
Verse 51, “As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked, then, the hour at when he began to be better and they said to him, ‘Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.'” I love the importance of what we learn here, as disciples today. It’s good what this guy learns about the authority of Jesus’s word, but I think it’s even better for us. This makes it even sweeter, having been a couple thousand years removed from this, because what it says to us is God doesn’t have to be face-to-face to provide what we need in life. That God can do what His word says from a distance. Because, I think, for us the goodness of that is we don’t see Jesus face-to-face right now, but if His word declares it to us, then it’s true.
So, what it’s saying to you is the Jesus that you find in scripture in this passage is the same Jesus that you seek today. In Hebrews chapter 13 verse eight, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” The same god that they’re getting to know in this story is the same god that you get to worship in these moments. What God declares for His people in the first century is the same promises that God gives to His people today, which means this, that you should know His word. What are those promises? What hope should your soul cling to?
If I gave you just a memory verse to meditate on and let you reflect on throughout the week, let me just give you this. In Matthew 24, towards the end of Jesus’s life, listen to what he says, “Heaven and Earth will pass away but my words will never pass away. Never.” Do you see the significance of what Jesus says? It’s even greater than where your feet are placed this morning. It’s greater than the ground on which you have walked in in this building today. That even the foundation of this Earth could fade away, but there is one thing that will last forever and that is the words of Christ. His word endures. How important that word should become to us that no time in God’s word is wasted time to get to know what Jesus says for you and about you and the hope that He brings to you in the struggle of life.
In verse 53, “The father knew that was the hour when Jesus said to him, ‘Your son will live.’ And he himself believed and all of his household.” I love this. This says to us, really, a broken life in the hands of God, it’s right for blessing. What we’re finding in verse 53 is this man no longer just simply believed the word that Jesus spoke. What he starts to believe in in this verse is more than just the word now. He believes in the person of who Christ is.
I know in this Christian walk, having done this for a while, we find ourselves in this gamut of position in how we see Jesus. We’re all not in the same place. Maybe you come to a story like this and you find yourself like the official here in the beginning. I don’t really know who Jesus is, but I’m starting to learn what Jesus says and I’m just going to take one step and trust in that, that wat Jesus says is true.
That’s what this official began to do. He stepped into the statement of Christ. That’s why I said to you, when you open up the book of John, the beautiful thing about the book of John is can meet you no matter where you are in your life. If you’re just walking with Jesus for the first time, you open up the book of John and you read it like a child and the Lord has something for you there.
Then, the depth of John is so incredible because it’s rooted in a lot of custom and cultural ideas of first century Judaism. When you can start to unpack that, if you’ve walked with Jesus for several years, you can see the depth of what’s communicated here and the beauty of Christ.
It’s such an incredible book that no matter how many times you go through it, over and over again, you’re seeing the richness of who Christ is. But whatever goes on in your life and however you come to Jesus, just trusting, understanding His word and just taking that next step and trusting in Him, and trusting in Him, and trusting in Him. What you find along the way is Jesus is everything that He says He is. It’s more than just believing in a statement now. It’s believing in His identity. It’s about who He is.
Here’s the reality. In the pain, this man comes for a cure for his son, but the entire family is healed. That’s incredible. The child is cured, but everyone in the family is healed. Guys, can I just encourage you one way here, men especially. I’m just going to say this. Statistically… and this isn’t always true… but statistically, in a home when the wife believes, sometimes the family believes. But do you know men in a home, where the father takes his walk with Jesus seriously, it’s a higher probability that the entire family believes? There’s a crisis in our country for men to be men.
I was reading a book yesterday, and I can’t even remember the title, but it was talking about a nun who went into a prison. She decided, when she went into the prison, it was close to Mother’s Day, so she wanted to provide the prisoners with Mother’s Day cards in case they wanted to send it to their mothers for Mother’s Day. When she got there, she was shocked that there was such a demand that she didn’t have enough cards. So, she wrote to Hallmark and Hallmark sent a bunch of cards to her and she took it to the prison and it still wasn’t enough for the prisoners to fill out for Mother’s Day cards for their mothers.
So, she had the leaders there in the prison to do a drawing to see what men would even be able to get these cards to send to their mothers. They handed out according to the drawing and she realized, because she lacked so much to provide for these prisoners to send these cards to their moms, that she was going to get an early start because she knew Father’s Day was just around the corner. So, she wrote to Hallmark again and she requested all these cards. She showed up to the prison to hand out these cards to the prisoners to write to their fathers and you know how many prisoners took the cards? Zero. Not a one of them wanted to write to their dad. She was shocked.
But that says something about the importance of fathers, doesn’t it? Your presence in the home, your influence over your family, the importance of your walk with Jesus.
Sometimes, I meet men that think that following after Christ, they treat it more like you’re throwing away your mind or… I don’t know… it’s just something that they’re not interested in. But I think, in having a walk with Jesus for a number of years now, I just say this. I think it takes a real man to really do that. It’s a coward’s castle to ignore Christ and not deal with it.
When you think about what the calling of Jesus is, “Take up your cross daily,” in Luke nine, “and follow after me.” It’s a death to self to bless the world. You have to lay your life down on the alter of convenience, that the glory of God be made known in your life. This culture needs men that are willing to take the journey of 20 miles, if that’s what it takes to bless their family, for the benefit of others.
We said this last week at men’s group, guys, but when men don’t live like men are called to live according to the Lord, the world suffers. When you use your strength for you, it treats everyone else as a commodity and it destroys the world, but when you use your strength for Him, it’s a blessing to people around you. That’s what this official models. He’s a leader. He’s a leader, yet he submits to Jesus and he walks in obedience.
Now, it may have been his own struggle that took him here, the battle in their family, but he was still willing to surrender to Jesus. Verse 54, I’ll lay off you guys, “This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.” Two things Jesus did in this region, and both were culturally unique, and both were just the kind of strange miracles we talked about a few weeks ago.
The wedding at Cana. Just of all the things, when Jesus is introducing his ministry to the world, turning water into wine is just bizarre. Jesus, come on. Let me be your PR man here. Raise the dead. Let the first one be raise the dead. And Jesus turns water into wine.
It’s an interesting story. We talked about it. I don’t want to get back into it, but then he goes down. You think about it, he goes down to the temple and he makes a whip and he starts cracking it on people in the temple. Then, he talks to some guy at night, named Nicodemus, and then he makes the journey back north. Then, he goes through Samaria, which is the hated land. Then, he talks to what the culture would say is probably the most unimportant woman in all of the region, at the well.
Now, he gets back to Cana of Galilee and he heals a child. In this culture, children weren’t respected. It’s been written of kids during this time period that some parents didn’t even bother naming their kid until they were two years old, just because of the infant mortality rate being so high. The children were just kind of pushed aside. You see it in Jesus’s ministry that when people would bring kids to Jesus that sometimes they would try to push the children aside and Jesus was always calling the kids near because he knew that every human being is created in the image of God. But when you think about this from a cultural context, all that Jesus has done to this point, His only miracle has been he’s turned water into wine and some kid that wasn’t even present, he healed him from 20 miles away. No one with Jesus in this moment would even know that. How do you know that that even becomes true unless you make that 20 mile journey and see it?
But yet, Jesus ministers to the forgotten. The woman at the well, the people that couldn’t afford the wine at the wedding, this child. What does that communicate to us? It says something important about Jesus because when we read stories like this, sometimes we think, “That’s great that God is there for these people like that, but who am I? Who am I?” The answer is you’re important to Jesus. You’re important to Jesus because that’s the illustration of His life that he’s constantly demonstrated, over and over, through all these pages, is that there was no one that is beneath the opportunity to come to know Christ. That’s why Jesus goes to the least of these in this world, because he’s saying, “God doesn’t care. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. Every soul is important to God,” and Jesus comes to give his life.
So, here’s the question for us then. Where is my healing? Where is my healing? If Jesus does this for this child, where is my healing? Some people read narrative stories and I think we expect the same things to happen, be repeated just for us, because in this story the kid’s healed, then I should be healed too. But narratives aren’t always normative. That’s why they’re narratives. They’re this exceptional story that’s intended to highlight something greater about God for us to know. Narratives aren’t normative and narratives aren’t necessarily prescriptive for life. They’re descriptive in understanding who God is. It’s sharing a story that we gleam from this something about the greater nature of God and His purpose in the world.
But if you want to think about your miracle, let me give you this. Isaiah chapter 53 in verse five, look what it says, “But He was pierced for our sufferings, or our offenses.” Sorry, “He was crushed for our wrongdoings. The punishment for our well-being was laid upon Him.” What’s Jesus coming for? You. You. He knows the struggle of life. He knows what your soul needs, so your offenses, your wrongdoings, your punishment laid upon Him.
Then, it says this. The very end of this verse, “And by His wounds we are,” what? “Healed.” By His wounds we are healed. That Jesus does this temporal healing in the world, this physical touch on the world, as a great demonstration of what He would ultimately do for your soul.
It is true, one day everything in this world will be healed. Every wrong will be reconciled, but it doesn’t tell us when. But right now, right now in Jesus, your very soul can be healed in Him. That’s the point of this story, isn’t it? The boy was cured. The boy was cured. That’s great. The boy was cured. But why was the boy cured? Well, it was a point to get our eyes on something greater that Jesus would come to do. That through the curing of this one boy, this whole family is healed so that in their example we could find healing in Christ as well.
The fact that we can be healed in Jesus means God sees our pain and he cares. God cares about our struggles. I can’t tell you why every bad thing happens to us in life, but I can tell you by Jesus’s example in this story, that He cares. Our struggles draw us to Him. The need for a solution. It’s the pain you have experienced in your own life that helps you appreciate when we described the nail-pierced hands of Christ. You’ve gone through your own battles, your own hardship, and it’s in that experience that when you find out that this Jesus becomes flesh and gives His very life for you and His hands suffered for you, that your soul can more deeply appreciate what it means when God says, “For God so loved the world He gave His only son.” That the father would send His son for you.
I don’t want pain in life, but I must acknowledge that the pain that I’ve gone through, the pain in the story, becomes the place to see the goodness of a god who pursues me, has great plans for me, and therefore I will cling to His words. His words are life. When I hold to the goodness of His word and I trust in that word, it possesses the healing that my soul needs.