Sunday, October 24, 2010

Trinity 21 Sermon

Trinity 21 – October 24th, 2010 – John 4:46-54

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +
The word “sign” in John’s Gospel is a wonderful word. It is a word that lets you know that there is going to be proof, evidence, that Jesus is the Messiah, sent by the Father to redeem the world. If you were a good Jewish person in Jesus day, you would know that according to the Law if you had two or three signs, two or three witnesses testifying to a statement, then that statement was trustworthy, it was real. After the wedding in Cana in Galilee, John tells us that this was Jesus’ first sign, first public evidence proving that He is the Messiah. Well, He’s in Cana again, and we are going to see another sign.

“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 down to Him and asked Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.” Jesus had been wandering around, He’s been in Jerusalem, He’d been in Samaria, and now, He’s back in Galilee. And this official from Capernaum, where Jesus spent a lot of time, hears that Jesus is back around, and he goes to Jesus and begs Him to come to his house and heal his son. Seems pretty good so far, doesn’t it? Except Jesus’ reply is sort of curt to this man. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” Well, why would Jesus say that to this fellow? He obviously believes. . . I mean, he came to Jesus to ask for healing, he wants Jesus to come. Why would Jesus say that unless there are signs there won’t be belief?

Here is why. This fellow understands that Jesus is holy, that He has power – but he doesn’t get it fully. What does this official ask Jesus? Come, come and heal my son. I want to see you lay hands on him, I want to hear your cry out with a loud voice, I want You to heal him thusly. The thing is… does Jesus need to walk up to this boy to heal him? Does Jesus need to walk up to this son to heal him? The man is insistent – “The official said to him, ‘Sir, come down before my child dies.’” We are wasting time with talking Jesus, when we should be walking. Let’s get a move on it, before my kid dies. What this fellow completely overlooks is that Jesus doesn’t need to go with him to heal the kid, Jesus can heal him right there. The guy doesn’t fully understand just how powerful Christ is, and so he tries to boss Jesus around. I hate to sound so critical of this guy, but while there is good, while it’s good that he knows to go to Jesus – he’s trying to micromanage Jesus, he’s selling Jesus short, and we need to be critical of things like this, we need to be wary of this sort of attitude, especially in ourselves.

One of the dangers around us here in the bible belt is a tendency to almost quietly sell Jesus short, to undercut His power, and substitute our own. To think that He can’t do things that He says He does. The obvious one for me is talking to people about Baptism or the Lord’s Supper. Jesus refers to baptism as being born again – the scriptures call it a gift that unites you to Christ, Peter says in his epistle, “Baptism now saves you.” And yet, what do we hear about it? Oh, it’s just symbolic. Oh, baptizing infants doesn’t do any good unless they decide to do it themselves, because what’s important is that you are giving yourself to God. Do you see how this sells short Christ Jesus? This whole power and wonder of God working through Water and His Word gets undercut… it’s as though people assume that Jesus couldn’t really mean all this stuff He says in His Word about what He gives us in Baptism, so we make Baptism about what we show and give to Jesus. Or the Lord’s Supper – this drives me nuts. Jesus says, “This is My Body” – and then people will say it isn’t. Oh, it’s just symbolic. How can this be Jesus’ Body, He’s stuck up in heaven? I just don’t understand how this could be Jesus’ Body, how can it be His Body. Well, maybe because He’s God and He said, “This Is My Body” and what He says goes. You see, this is the danger – that we will slowly doubt, undercut, deny what Jesus Himself says because… it is mysterious and wondrous to us and we can’t comprehend it, because it’s about Him being more powerful than us and in control, and we like to be the ones in charge. Think about what we hear about prayer. Oh, if you just say this prayer the right way God’s gonna give you blessings. Am I in charge of God? Do I get to say, “You must bless me and in this way”? And this is where the man in our lesson errs. Please heal my son – great. You need to come down and heal him in this way – not so great.

“Jesus said to him, ‘Go, your son will live.’ The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.” Now, I will praise this man. Jesus doesn’t give the man precisely what he asked, what he demanded. Jesus doesn’t go to Capernaum. He does something better. Jesus speaks a word of life. Go, your son will live. And hearing, the man believes – the man learns and gets it. If Jesus says something, it’s going to be, it will be true. And so in faith, he heads home. His plans of dragging Jesus along with him are dashed – but as he walks home, he goes trusting in Christ Jesus and His Word. And that trust proves true – the servants come running to meet him – Your son lives. And what do you know – the son is healed at the very hour when Jesus said, “Go, your son will live.” “This was now the second sign that Jesus did when He had come from Judea to Galilee.” The proof is in the pudding, as they say. Who is this Jesus – well, let’s see, He speaks, and then there is life. Hmm, can we think of Someone who speaks, and then there is life, say life springing up from the ground? This is a God thing that Jesus does – this shows that He is God, that He is the Word of God by Whom all things were made. This is what Jesus does – He restores life. If you want to know who God is, He is the One who gives life, and He gives it by the power of His Word. What Jesus says, is. And this truth, this wonder is revealed, is shown to us by this miracle – it is the proof of who Jesus is, it is His credentials. This Man Jesus is God come down to save us.

Now, what do we learn and take from this? Consider your own life, what you see. How many of you see your bodies not working like they used to? How many of you see signs of age and wear when you look in the mirror? Oh, as a society we try to hide that today, don’t we? But it’s there. Or how many of you, when you look at your lives see things broken – broken friendships, broken families, broken people, even yourself broken – just all those things that wear you down. Some of these tails of woe I know, some I don’t. You know some of mine, some you don’t. We all have them. We are sinful people living in a sinful world – nasty horrible stuff happens and we all get older and things start wearing down and dreams and plans don’t work out right. This is reality. How do we respond?

The world gives us a few answers. One answer the world gives is to simply ignore these problems, pretend they don’t exist. Oh, you could just go get blottoed or high, stoned off your rocker, that way you don’t have to face reality. Or, you could do what is more common – live for stuff, the latest and greatest gadget, show, car, tractor, or doohickey that will entertain you and keep you distracted. The world offers many ways for us to pretend that the difficulties of life aren’t there – dab a little make-up on and you’re just as young as you used to be, get the spiffy car and you’ll feel footloose and fancy free, or just drink till you forget. And of course, these are all lies – none of it is real, none of it fixes the problem – but it is appealing. Another answer the world gives is the simple dour answer. What you see is what you get. That’s all there is – only what you can understand and make sense of – and that it. So live for yourself, take what you want, make the best of things because it’s dog eat dog out there, so get to biting and fighting. There’s lots of that out there.

But you know reality. You know what is going on. Sinners in a sinful world. It’s all death. Our bodies, they break and die. Our friendships, they can break and die. Hopes – they can break and die. That’s the reality of life in a fallen world, and if left to our own devices, all the toys, all the money, all the drugs, all the ambition and power won’t change that fact.

To you who know this, Jesus says, “Go, you will live.” That’s what forgiveness is, that’s what everything that happens in this place is – it is simply Jesus saying to you, “Go with confidence and peace, face down anything you see in this life, for you will live.” When Christ Jesus goes to the Cross, He is facing down all this junk and trash we see in life, the stuff we don’t talk about – and Jesus stares down, takes it upon Himself, let’s the world do it’s worst to Him, let’s the world kill Him most cruelly – takes the wages of our sin upon Himself. And on the third day – He rises. He rises victoriously over sin, death, the world – all this junk tried to destroy Him and He just strides on out of the tomb. He is the God of Life, the God who creates with a Word, the God who forgives with a Word, the God who gives new life in Himself with a Word. And Jesus says to you in His Word, when you are feeling the weight of this world upon you – Go, You will live.

Do you feel your own body turning against you? Go, you will live. You will live eternally, and even if you die here, you will live again, because Christ’s Word of life will not be broken. You are going to live better in the resurrection than you do now. Do you look around and see friendships broken, relationships destroyed? Go, you will live. You have been Baptized into Christ Jesus, made part of the Communion of Saints, brought into a family that after the resurrection of the dead on the last day will have no more problems, will not break, but will be united with Christ forever. Do you see things wrong in this world? Go, you will live. You will live eternally in the new heavens and the new earth where moth and rust do not destroy, where there is peace. Do you see sin in your own flesh, wearing you down? Go, you will live. Christ Jesus has forgiven you, and your sin is done away with, destroyed, and in the life of the world to come it will not be remembered any more.

I myself can’t understand what that will be like. I can’t imagine what it will be like to be in a body that isn’t falling apart, to no longer have sinful desires clinging to me. But this is what Jesus has promised to us, and so as we go about our lives here, we believe. We trust in His Word of life, for He is true God, and what He says is true – and He says that you will live, and this is a truth and a joy that no one can take from you. His Word is true, and shall be forever. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost +

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