Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Faith, Trust, and Surrender (Monday, 4th Week of Lent, John 4:43-54)

At that time Jesus left [Samaria] for Galilee.
For Jesus himself testified
that a prophet has no honor in his native place.
When he came into Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him,
since they had seen all he had done in Jerusalem at the feast;
for they themselves had gone to the feast.
Then he returned to Cana in Galilee,
where he had made the water wine.
Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum.
When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea,
he went to him and asked him to come down
and heal his son, who was near death.
Jesus said to him,
“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”
The royal official said to him,
“Sir, come down before my child dies.”
Jesus said to him, “You may go; your son will live.”
The man believed what Jesus said to him and left.
While the man was on his way back,
his slaves met him and told him that his boy would live.
He asked them when he began to recover.
They told him,
“The fever left him yesterday, about one in the afternoon.”
The father realized that just at that time Jesus had said to him,
“Your son will live,”
and he and his whole household came to believe.
Now this was the second sign Jesus did
when he came to Galilee from Judea.

* * * * * * * *

There are certain things about the conduct of this “royal official” who comes to Jesus that stand out, qualities that serve as a wonderful example for everyone:

(i) He was a “royal official” who came to a carpenter. The Greek term used is basilikos which could even mean that he was a petty king; but it is used for a royal official and he was a man of high standing at the court of Herod. Jesus on the other hand had no greater status than that of the village carpenter of Nazareth. Further, Jesus was in Cana and this man lived in Capernaum, almost twenty miles away. That is why he took so long to get back home.

There could be no more improbable scene in the world than an important court official hastening twenty miles to beg a favor from a lowly carpenter. First and foremost, this man swallowed his pride. He was in need, and neither convention nor custom prevent ed him from bringing his need to Christ. His action would cause a sensation but he did not care what people would say as long as he obtained the help he needed. If we want the help which Christ can give we must be humble enough to swallow our pride and not care what others may say.

(ii) Here was a man who refused to be discouraged. Jesus met him with what at first might seem like bleak statement that people would not believe unless they were supplied with signs and wonders. It may well be that Jesus aimed that saying, not so much at the man himself, but at the crowd that must have gathered to see the outcome of this sensational happening. They would be there all agape to see what would happen.

But Jesus had a way of making sure that a person was in earnest. He did that to the Syro-Phoenician woman (Matt.15:21-28). If the man had turned irritably and petulantly away; if he had been too proud to accept a rebuke; if he had given up despairingly on the spot—Jesus would have known that his faith was not real. One must be in earnest before Jesus’ help can come to him.

(iii) He was clearly a man of strong trust and faith. It must have been hard for him to turn away and go home with Jesus' assurance that his little boy would live. Yet he had enough confidence and trust in Jesus to turn and walk back that twenty mile road with nothing but Jesus' assurance to comfort his heart.

It is of the very essence of faith that we should take Jesus at his word. Oftentimes, what we have is no more than a kind of vague, wistful longing that the promises of Jesus would be true. The only way really to enter into them is to believe in them with the clutching intensity of a drowning man. If Jesus says a thing, it is not a case of "It may be true"; it is a case of "It must be true."

(iv) Here was a man who surrendered himself to Christ completely. He was not a man who got out of Christ what he wanted and then went away to forget. He and all his household believed. That would not be easy for him, for the idea of Jesus as the Anointed One of God must have cut across all his preconceived notions. Nor would it be easy at the court of Herod to profess faith in Jesus. He would have been mocked and laughed at; and no doubt there would be those who thought that he had gone slightly mad.

But he was a man who had come to face and accept the facts. He had seen what Jesus could do; he had experienced it; and there was nothing left for it but surrender. He had begun with a sense of desperate need; that need had been supplied; and his sense of need had turned into an overpowering love. This “royal official’s” story must always be the story of the Christian life.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)