St. John 4:46-54
October 24, 2021
NO SERMON AUDIO
(Revised from 2005-10-16)
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The nobleman left his dying boy to bring home a miracle worker. That took some faith, some latent hope, a burning ember of belief that Jesus could help. The nobleman had some sense of the Law and the brokenness of this world. He was starting to see that his nobility, with its attendant riches and connections, could not stop death. He felt his impotency against its accusations.
So he put some hope in the miracle worker who had turned water into wine. He tried to persuade Him to come with him and heal his son, but He would not. The nobleman’s authority was not enough to command Him, and for the request, he gets a rebuke: “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.”
It must have seemed as though the faith and hope, the desperate prayers all the way from Capernaum to Cana, had been in vain.
Jesus surprises us. In the face of such desperation He dares to preach the Law. He sees, by the man’s words, that faith is still lacking, still imperfect. He will not pretend that it is good enough, that He is impressed. He will not be winsome or polite. He will not be patient or seemingly even kind. He will not meet felt needs. He rebukes in order to bring faith to its knees. He moves it from concern only over physical well-being to eternity. The father becomes concerned not only with whether the boy lives for a bit more on earth, but whether he lives forever. This is an object worth desperation and sacrifice.
Jesus commands the man “Go your way” and adds the ambiguity: “Your son lives.” What does that mean to a father full of fear? Does it mean that his son lives in heaven and has already left this world behind? Does it mean he lives right now, but will die within the hour and that the father wasted his time? Or does it mean that the fever has left him? The nobleman is not told. Nothing is explained. No promise is made. It is not “Your son will live.” It is not set in the future but the present: “Your son lives.” Nothing more. Take that and go your way.
Miracle of miracles: that mysterious sentence changed the nobleman. He had tried to command Jesus. He did not ask, but commanded, noblemanwise: “Come down before my child dies.” But Jesus said: “Your son lives” and everything changed. It was not the nobleman who believed. It was a humble man, the father of the son. His nobility was stripped away. John the Evangelist had called him a royal man or a nobleman, early in the account. But after Jesus says: “Your son lives” John changes the title. He is no longer a “nobleman,” but simply a “man,” and, at that, a man who believed.
The Word of Jesus changed him. He obeyed, going on his way, believing as a man under a King, stripped of pretensions, no longer glorying in his faith, no longer making demands of God, but instead resting in the Word of Jesus, trusting that it is enough and that Jesus is good. He still doesn’t know just what it means. He knows Jesus said it. That is good enough for faith. And that is how faith lives between Cana and Capernaum without signs or wonders.
He was not the first parent to get a son back from the dead here on earth. The widows in Nain and Zarephath had experienced similar miracles. The Syro-Phonecian woman got her daughter back from demons. Abraham, too, got Isaac back from the mountain and Issac got Joseph back from fratricide. The Lord provides. Always. Nonetheless, that is a small club. Most of us must wait for the Last Day, between Cana and Capernaum.
Most significantly, of all the Divine promises ever made and kept, Our Father in heaven got His Son back from the dead. When it was finished, the Son gave up His spirit and went to heaven. The fever of sin had left Him. That Son didn’t have to die or suffer. He didn’t deserve to be forsaken by the Father or feel the hatred of the mob burning in His hands and feet. He didn’t have to die according to the Law for He was innocent, but His love required it, He Father commanded, and He obeyed. He became sin and guilt for us and was condemned by the law. And He Himself said that it was necessary.
Love necessitated that He suffer and die in order to drive off the fever in Capernaum and change water into wine in Cana and to make disciples of all nations. Love demanded death to put death to rest, so that Jesus could stand in the upper room and pronounce peace upon the Church and establish the Ministry of reconciliation. The Father lost the Son on the cross, turned Him over to the devil and set Him to endure the tortures of Hell for us. There was nowhere for Him to turn, no ram caught in the thicket, no miracle worker in Cana. He was alone. And then, when it was finished, perfected and done, He committed His Body to rest in the grave for three days, but not His soul. His soul did not delay. He went straight to the Father and the holy angels and the saints in glory. To His own Father He said, “Your Son lives. The Sacrifice is complete. Your wrath is spent, the accusations all met, and Hell has completely lost its claim on humanity. Your good and gracious is done.”
Jesus lives. Take this with you today and every day on your way to Cana. It is not just “Jesus lives,” it is also “Your Son lives.” I don’t mean only sons that have come from your loins and that depart with the sign of faith. I mean the Son of God, Son of Mary. He is your Son, by virtue of Holy Baptism, and He lives. Today you’ve come to a foretaste of the eternal Cana. Here water is not turned into wine, but wine carries the Blood of Christ, Your Son, and makes glad your heart. Here is a miracle and sign for faith: the sign of Jonah. You eat and drink the risen Body and Blood Jesus. He is alive and present. He joins you to Himself for faith’s sake, to feed hope, and to forgive sins. Be thus strengthened and encouraged.
And then go on your way, His way. For the meantime, that is back to Capernaum and the workaday world. But your Son lives. So will your children. So will you. You walk on His paths and His Word lights the way. This is enough for faith.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.