Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Wednesday/Thursday of Trinity 14

 By Word, not by Sign

John 4:46-54 (ESV) So Jesus came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And 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. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. 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.” 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. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.
Jesus had just returned to Galilee from Judea (4:46-47). During His journey He met the Samaritan woman at the well and revealed to her that He was the Messiah (4:4-26). Many Samaritans came to believe in Him through her testimony about Him (4:39) and even more came to know Him as Savior of the world through His own Word (4:40-42).
The official from Capernaum was a military or administrative officer under King Herod, tetrarch of Galilee. We know he had some authority of his own because he had servants (4:51). The road from Capernaum to Cana was twenty rough miles, more than a day’s journey.
Cana in Galilee, where Jesus had turned water to wine (2:1-11), was near His hometown of Nazareth. The people of Nazareth had become angry and even tried to kill Him when He did not perform miracles for them (Luke 4:23-30). Jesus frequently criticized the people in Galilee who were interested only in getting miracles out of Him. This provides background for Jesus’ response to the official with the dying son: “Unless you [a plural pronoun in Greek, meaning “you Galileans”] see signs and wonders you [plural] will not believe” (4:48). Along with many other Galileans, the official did believe that Jesus could heal his son (otherwise he wouldn’t have asked), but according to Jesus, this was not true faith in Him but only faith in miracles. Jesus expressed disgust with such a superficial “faith.”
Jesus’ initial rejection was met with a genuine intercession on behalf of his child. Jesus then gave His Word that his son would live. He granted the request not because of the official’s faith (which was certainly lacking) but because of His grace. The greatest miracle occurred when the man believed Jesus’ Word and went home with nothing to show for his trip except that Word. Perhaps his faith was as small as a mustard seed, but he did have faith in Jesus’ Word.
The next day the man learned from his servants that his son had recovered at the same time Jesus gave the Word. The man then moved beyond a shallow belief that Jesus was a miracle-worker and came to believe that Jesus is Lord over life and death. He shared the Word about Jesus with his whole household and they believed it, too.
This story is an invitation for us to believe the Word of Jesus. The official had only one Word to go on, whereas we have the testimony of Holy Scripture and the Sacraments which He established to deliver forgiveness, life, and salvation to us. Through the Word and Sacraments, we are able to know who Jesus is much more clearly than the people in Galilee who heard Him teach and perform miracles. Though we cannot see Him but live by faith, we know “the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). The Church does not place faith in Jesus merely as a miracle-worker but above all in Jesus the crucified and risen Lord who is our Savior from sin, as St. Paul reminds us: “Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:22-23).
Prayer (LSB 846):
1. Your hand, O Lord, in days of old
    Was strong to heal and save;
It triumphed over ills and death,
    O’er darkness and the grave.
To You they came, the blind, the mute,
    The palsied and the lame,
The lepers in their misery,
    The sick with fevered frame.
2. Your touch then, Lord, brought life and health,
    Gave speech and strength and sight;
And youth renewed and frenzy calmed
    Revealed You, Lord of light.
And now, O Lord, be near to bless,
    Almighty as before,
In crowded street, by beds of pain,
    As by Gennes’ret’s shore.
3. O be our great deliv’rer still,
    The Lord of life and death;
Restore and quicken, soothe and bless,
    With Your life-giving breath.
To hands that work and eyes that see
    Give wisdom’s healing pow’r
That whole and sick and weak and strong
    May praise You evermore. Amen.

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