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Trinity 21 – John 4:46-54

by pastorjuhl ~ November 11th, 2011

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

            A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. So says Solomon in Proverbs chapter 25. Let there be light. Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. So says God in Genesis chapter one. Go your way; your son lives. So says Jesus in John chapter four. Without words, there would not be a Word of God. Without the Word of God, there would be no Gospel, proclaiming forgiveness of sins and eternal life to the world. It is often said that a man’s word is better than a piece of paper. Perhaps you can remember a time when a bank loan or other major purchase was sealed with words and a handshake rather than a mountain of paperwork.

You trust a man’s word to be certain, but you don’t trust Jesus’ Words to be certain. Neither did the nobleman from Capernaum. He came to Jesus imploring Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Jesus’ response to the nobleman is His response to you as well, unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.

Whatever happened to taking a man at his word? Maybe you have heard the radio commercial for a car dealer in the area who promises no hassles and no high-pressure salesmen. Whether it’s buying a car, talking to a lawyer, or attending Divine Service and Bible Study, it seems no one takes anyone at their word.

It’s good to be cautious, but when you can’t trust anyone…especially yourself…then you see how deep sin has penetrated mankind. God created a perfect heaven and earth, from the sun, moon, and stars all the way down to the hairs on man and woman’s head. Everything and everyone was created good. Disobedience of God’s Word brought a constant craving to be smarter than God, to be better than Him, to outwit Him. God is not fooled.

Sinful man is able to have faith, but it is a weak faith. Even with a hearty trust in God’s help, mankind’s faith in the God Who created Him comes from a very limited knowledge of the greatness of divine mercy. The nobleman didn’t know much about Christ’s preaching and miracles. Jesus had only performed one miracle prior to today’s Gospel: the miracle of changing water into wine at the wedding in Cana. Nevertheless, the nobleman had firm confidence that Jesus could help him; else he wouldn’t have approached Christ.

Weak faith needs to see signs and wonders; it wants to see and feel help before becoming strong. That’s why the nobleman insisted Jesus come with him almost 17 miles to heal his son. There have been times when you, like the nobleman, needed to see some sort of sign or wonder to believe Jesus was working in your life. Perhaps the most popular moment is in time of sickness, on either your part or someone you love. You pray for healing, but when no healing comes, and then faith suffers a blow. If only Jesus could have heard another prayer or two. If only Jesus would have considered my prayer more than other prayers. If only He could have been here to help.

He is here to help, but you won’t see Him. Jesus is the very Word of God come down to earth. He does not leave you helpless. He sends His Holy Spirit to direct you to Him through the wonders of preaching, baptism, absolution, and the Supper. Jesus is here to hear your sacrifice of prayer and praise. God the Father is well pleased with you because of His Son’s blood and righteousness. However, you won’t believe it until you see Him in the flesh literally come to someone’s bedside, wave His hands over the bed, and help the person get out of bed fully healed. His Word is not enough.

If this were so, then what need was there to create the heavens and the earth? What need was there for God to promise to send a Savior? What need was there for the Patriarchs and Prophets? What need is there for preachers and Bibles? An invisible God leads to an invisible faith. God is not here anymore. God is no longer listening. God is busy. Perhaps God does not exist.

Repent of such foolish thinking. Jesus does not cast the nobleman aside. Even after he pleads a second time, Sir, come down before my child dies! Jesus heals his child with six words: Go your way; your son lives. Even then, the nobleman still wanted to make sure that Jesus did as He said He would. He asked his servants what time his son started feeling better. Wouldn’t you know that it was the same time Jesus told him those six words that changed everything. Something milksop became something harder than granite.

You possess help in physical distress through God’s Word, even though you perceive nothing about it. Hebrews chapter eleven says, faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. You don’t need to sign a mountain of paperwork to make sure God’s Word to you is certain. When mankind fails you, the Word of Christ is still trustworthy. King David sings in Psalm 28: The LORD is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him.

Not only does God’s Word help in physical distress, but also in trusting eternal goods over earthly temptations, in forgiveness over the weight of sin, and life in the midst of death. Saint Paul says in today’s Epistle, we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Then follow those familiar passages about the different parts of the armor of God. Armor is defensive weaponry. You need protection from the enemy. There is one offensive weapon that Paul mentions: the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. When all other worldly possessions faith, there is one weapon against the power of the devil’s might. God’s Word pierces the enemy and destroys him.

Though armed to the hilt, Satan is destroyed when Jesus attacks the one place where the devil is unprotected: the head. Jesus crushes Satan’s head at the cost of a bruised heel. The Conquering Hero triumphs, even in what seems to be His worst moment. Faith grabs hold of the cross of Christ and glories in it, for the enemy is vanquished and hell loses all power. Even when faith is still milksop, it grasps divine grace and help. Faith finds joyful confirmation in believing that what Jesus says and does is what His Father wants for us. He wants us to be in communion with Him for all eternity. He wants us with Him through death into new life.

A Man’s Word is still worth something today. The God-Man’s Word that healed the nobleman’s son also heals you of sin and death. The Word of reconciliation proclaimed throughout the centuries holds certain to this day. You live, even after you die. The nobleman’s son lives, even though he was near death. The nobleman’s whole household lives, as he lives too. They live because Jesus lives. You live because Jesus lives. “On Christ the solid rock I stand/All other ground is sinking sand.” Believe it for Jesus’ sake.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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