[John 4:46-54] So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 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. 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.51 As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. 52 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.” 53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household.54 This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.
Faith unto Faith in Times of Family Trial
Was this man weak in faith, or strong?
The man’s son was dying – “at the point of death.” He hears that Jesus has come into Galilee. He goes to Jesus, “Come down and heal my son.” Jesus responds to this man by pointing out a weakness in his faith – “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”
This man is facing a family tragedy. They come in many forms. You’ve all faced them. You’ll face more. And you know, from past experiences, that sometimes what helps you believe – what helps you believe that Jesus is with you, that He is your Savior, that God has goodwill toward you – is that you asked Jesus to intervene, to stop the pending tragedy or trial, and He stops it.
You were financially wrecked or lost a job and then, at the last moment, it all worked out. Someone was sick, the doctors didn’t know what to do, but through prayer the person suddenly recovered. The worst news was certain, but then unexpectedly it gave way to good news.
These miraculous things really happen. Our Lord does them just as He so often did in the Gospels. These miracles and answers to prayer sometimes even become a piece of the bedrock that our faith in Christ ends up resting on. The personal or family tragedies which our Lord suddenly turned around, mended, fixed – often these are things in our life-gone-past that built up our faith. We put faith in Jesus. He answered. Our faith was strengthened – faith unto faith.
So it was with the man in today’s Gospel. Jesus has mercy on the weak faith. Again, for whatever reason, Jesus had kind of rebuked him – “you won’t believe unless you see signs and wonders.” But Jesus then has mercy on this man’s feeble faith. Jesus does for the man what is our Lord’s second sign in that land where He had previously made water into wine.
The man had asked Jesus to come down. Jesus gave his response. And the man asks again, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus says, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed – “The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.”
This man goes on his way. As he is going, his servants meet him, coming his way, and inform him that his son is recovering. The man asks, “What hour did my son begin to get better?” His servants respond, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.”
“The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live.’” And what does it say next? “And he himself believed, and all his household.”
The man asked. The man saw the answer happen. He himself believed – all the more – and then even all his household believed. Faith in Christ grew. Faith spread. Faith unto more faith – the man’s faith in Christ unto, now, his whole household believing in Christ – because of the Lord’s visible, tangible answer to prayer during this family’s time of trial.
Faith unto faith. Yet, remember, nowhere had it said that this man’s faith was ever especially strong – Instead, “unless you see signs, you won’t believe.” Jesus is merciful to our weakness of faith.
It is not strong faith that makes the difference - It is Jesus that makes the difference. It’s the strength of the One whom we trust, not the strength of our trust. If it’s about the strength of my faith, then I’m really trusting in myself. Instead, Jesus is strong, not me, so I trust in Him because He is strong. It’s not the strength of my prayers; it’s the strength of Him who answers. In truth, our faith is most genuine when it knows how weak itself to be, and therefore only trusts in Jesus.
Jesus was good to this man in the Gospel and gave him this sign, this visible answer to his prayer – the healing of his son – and, as we’ve said, Jesus even does great things like this for us today. Jesus gives us and our families visible answers to life’s trials, except for those times when He doesn’t. Sometimes He doesn’t.
What does it mean when the miracle doesn’t happen? Because sometimes those money troubles just end in bankruptcy. Sometimes the big break doesn’t happen. Sometimes your child doesn’t get better – physically or spiritually. Oftentimes the family trial or tragedy continues with no obvious, visible answer from Your Savior. What does it mean?
Faith goes on unto faith. And part of our faith – the biggest part – is that we believe in many things that we do not see. Jesus gave that man and his family an answer he could see. He sometimes has done that for you. But ultimately, the things we need from Christ, that we trust Him for most of all, are things that we do not see.
I believe in the resurrection of the body – but I do not see the resurrection of the body. But oftentimes that resurrection is the healing we’re called to trust in. I believe in the forgiveness of my sins – but I cannot see the forgiveness of my sins. It’s not something visible – yet it’s the thing most needed. I believe that God’s kingdom comes. I cannot see that it is coming.
I believe that God created heaven and earth. But I did not see Him create heaven and earth. I believe that Christ redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature. But I did not see Him die on the cross.
Though God sometimes gives those answers we can see, when Holy Scripture defines faith, it defines faith as confidence in what we do not see: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” [Hebrews 11:1]
And Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” [John 20:29]. And Scripture says, “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him” [1 Peter 1:8].
Our faith believes entirely in an event and person we have not seen. Jesus. His death on the cross. His bodily resurrection from the dead. Jesus exists and is the Son of God. Jesus died on the cross, crucified, for the sins of mankind – including for all your sins. Jesus died your death. Jesus rose alive to never die again.
You are baptized into this death and resurrection of Jesus so that all that was accomplished there is now true in and for you here. Given through the water of baptism. Given in and under the bread and wine. God’s work, yet entirely unseen. Unseen, yet this belief, this faith, is more certain than all other kinds of knowledge – “is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
Sometimes the finances stay wrecked. But I believe by faith that God is my Father and the Creator of heaven and earth. Sometimes the diagnosis only gets worse. But I believe that death is swallowed up in victory and that the grave has no hold on us. Not yet seen, but believed.
Sometimes visible answers come. Other times, faith must move on to those unseen but sure and certain things which Jesus has done for us, the eternal and everlasting things.
Thanks be to God that it does not depend upon the strength of our faith, but on the strength of that One in whom our faith believes, Jesus Christ alone. Amen.