Trinity 21 – November 9th and 10th, 2019 – John 4:46-54
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
Last week, I had been cranky – just had had one of those weeks where everything seemed sour, and I was just in a nail spitting mood. And so after service last week, I look at this Gospel lesson, and I thought, “Boy, it sure seems as though Jesus is in a cranky mood, too.” Well, I think the “cranky” observation was more me than Jesus – but it is odd what Jesus says in the Gospel today, isn't it? So, what's the set up? So [Jesus] came again to Cana in Galilee, where He had made water wine. Jesus had been down in Samaria, had dealt with the woman at the well – all that stuff. And He comes home – and it should be peace, quiet, folks who understand Him. Family, cousins (because He had been invited to the wedding and mom was running the back room) so nice and relaxing. 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. And this seems like it should be fantastic – an official, a big wig from the capital city hears that Jesus is back in the area, and this man walks miles and miles to ask Jesus to heal his son. Well, isn't this great?
And then we hear this. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you [people] see signs and wonders, you [people] will not believe.” You might have noticed that I added “people” to this, because Jesus is using the plural you – it's not just you individual, but you all, y'all. And again, I don't know if it's accurate to say that Jesus is cranky here – but that's sort of an exasperated tone to it. There's not the rejoicing that someone sees and believes, there's not a praise of the man's faith. Just – man, unless I keep tossing out signs and wonders, y'all just don't get with it. There's a frustration – there is a connection that Jesus expects people to get and they aren't getting it.
Now the dad – he doesn't care about connections or bigger thoughts or anything – his boy is sick. So he sticks with it – The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” I don't really care what's bugging You or what signs or wonders other folks want to see, but my son is going to die so can we get a move on it? Well, no – we aren't going to get a move on it. Jesus said to him, “Go, your son will live.” So often, when we picture Jesus saying something in our mind, we think of these great actors with fantastic voices saying things with epic resonance – GO, YOUR SON... WILL LIVE!! And there's a swell of music and the sun comes out to shine – awwwwww. Well, no, that's not what Jesus says. That word for “Go” isn't the epic, grand word for go – it's get a move on, scram. It's WC Field saying, “Go away kid, you're bothering me.” And even that “your son will live” - it's not epic. It's ὁ υἱός σου ζῇ. Your son lives. Go on, he's fine. It's like when you've got one parent freaking out because their kid got a scrape and going all, “Oh my baby” and the other parent saying, “relax, he's fine.” This is completely low key and unimpressive. This is even less impressive than water in the jars being turned to wine while no one was looking.
But the dad – he's good with this. The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. Oh. Well – if You say that I can get going, well, I'll get going. This man takes Jesus simply at His Word, even Jesus' most simple word. And we know what's going to happen. 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 this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” Okay – this is cooler than we think. Oh, it's nice that the servants meet him. But did you note when? The next day. He had met Jesus at 1 pm. The seventh hour – and then the guy starts walking home – and it's the next day, and that's when the servants came, who would have come running as soon as it happened to inform the guy that the son was improving. Do you get the time table? The guy had walked for two days to get to Jesus – to beg Jesus to come with him. Eh, scram, the kid is fine.
And yet, there's no anger, no disdain, No 'I thought the prophet would come and wave his hand over the kid' – nope. Just faith. And he himself believed, and all his household. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when He had come from Judea to Galille. The sign is given, and the folks believe. They recognize that this Jesus is the Messiah. He is God incarnate. And yet, why was Jesus so... if not cranky exasperated and short with people? It has to do with this word “sign.”
See, in John's Gospel the word “miracle” isn't used. The wedding at Cana isn't Jesus' first “miracle” - it's His first sign that He does. And this healing is the second sign. So then, what's a sign? A sign is something that tells you what is going on. A sign points you to the real deal. When you've seen the sign, you know where you are, you know what's going on. It should be the giant clue by four that puts everything into place. And in Jewish culture – once you had two signs – things were solid. Add a third on top, and everyone should know what is going on.
And the signs were clear. Jesus is the Messiah. He is God come down, not just to Capernaum, but come down to earth. The hills drip sweet wine – and He speaks and it is just like at creation – this is God with us, this is Immanuel. God Himself is Present! This is great!
So then – now what? Now that God is here with us, now that the Messiah has come – now what? What's the response, how do you approach life, how do you live now that you have had this wondrous sign revealed you? Now that the mystery of the ages is present – what do you say? Well... I heard You were back, and I know You are good with the healing, so You think You might heal my son? Yeah, yeah, prophecy fulfilled, mystery of the ages, that's nice, but his fever is sort of high, so You mind if we start walking?
I'm not saying that it's bad that this father wants his son healed – I mean we pray for people all the time. That's fine. But there's Jesus. There's the Word of God by Whom all things were made – and here's just another humdrum problem. It would be like having Van Gogh or Monet show up at your house and saying, “Oh, wow – you're a great painter – you know, the spare bedroom could use an extra coat, would you mind?” Unless you [people] see signs and wonders you [people] will not believe. Don't you people get it? Don't you see the bigger picture? Don't you realize why I have come? Go, your son will live. Scram, your kid lives. Of course he lives – don't you know that's why I've come. Oh, he'll die eventually, and you'll die, and your servants will die – but I've come so that you all will live. When Isaiah talks about the hills dripping sweet wine, it wasn't just for a wedding one weekend – it's going to be forever. This creation that I had made – that I spoke, and it was good – I've come to destroy and eradicate sin and death so that I can and will make it good again – and not just what you folks think of as good – maybe 80 or 90 years of health – but good good. Living, never to die living – that's that Good that I'm here to set up. Get with the big picture, people!
One of my favorite stories was one my college economics prof told – Dr. Will Clark. Not the first basemen for the Giants, but I did take his class because of the name – and Dr. Clark told this story. The famous economist John Keynes was having a debate with some folks who didn't like his economic theories, and they said, “You know, in the long run, our theories work just as well.” And Keynes' response was, “in the long run, we're all dead.” And frankly, if left to our own devices, in the long run, we're all dead. And that would be the end of the story. Think of the drama and spats that you've had this week – how many of them are you going to really remember 5 years from now – much less feel? Or 10 years from now? I took that class with Dr. Clark 24 years ago – it was a wonderful class and I loved the man – he had a tremendous impact upon me as a student and scholar. I might think of him two or three times a year. That's 24 years for you. And who of us is even going to be around 100 years from now? And now think of the anger, the hurt, the pain that we get so wrapped up in – the fears, the sorrows, the hurts. Half the time when I get in a bad mood I can't even remember what set me off thirty minutes later – but I'll still get my mood on. And in the long run, we're all dead. And that should be it, end of the story, that's all she wrote – to where 150 years from now we're nothing more than a note in someone's family tree, maybe a plaque on a wall with our name now faded.
And that's what it would be – except for this. So He came. So Jesus came. The Word of God, by whom all things were made, who had made all things good, came down into the midst of His creation, a creation torn apart and wrecked by sin to such an extent that instead of enjoying blessings we nurse our hurts and our grudges and we abuse the gifts He gives and we grouse and complain and we ache and suffer... and into the middle of this Jesus came. And He takes all of it up upon Himself, He goes to the Cross, He dies – wretchedly – probably more wretchedly than any of us will. And why? Not to heal you for a moment, not to buy you a pony or help you pass a test you didn't study for. He just might do that – He doesn't mind doing that – but that's not WHY He came. He came for this reason. So that He could look at you and say, “Go on, you'll live. Forever. Resurrected, perfected, with Me. Free from sin and pain. This life now – this is like childbirth – it hurts and is confusing – but the fullness comes after.
Two weeks ago – ugh, that was wretched. This past week – meh? As for this week to come – who knows? I hope I have a good one and I hope you all have even better ones. And I hope in a few weeks your Thanksgiving Turkey as moist and as flavorful as you've ever had. If so, enjoy it. But that's not the most important thing. Nor will be the things that get you upset, the things that go sideways, because something always does go sideways eventually. The important thing is this. Jesus has died, and Jesus has risen – and He has claimed you as His own Baptized child – and so no matter what happens to you, you will rise. You live. Happily. Even after the end and then onto the Ever After. That's actually how your story goes – because Christ Jesus is your Savior. God grant that we see this and believe this and delight in this and all the other gifts that He gives us, whether big or small, for we are His baptized children! In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +