Trinity 21 2018
The Epistle – Ephesians 6:10-20
The Gospel – St. John 4:46-54
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
The prayer setting the tone for this day again is this, “GRANT, we beseech thee, merciful Lord, to thy faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from all their sins, and serve thee with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Grant to your faithful people pardon and peace…so that knowing we have received that pardon, our sins have been forgiven, we may live to serve God with a quiet mind.
The quiet mind comes from a knowledge and a certainty that our sins are forgiven.
If we do not accept that fact each time the priest pronounced God’s forgiveness, for example, then we will not live with a quiet mind and consequently, we will probably live with fear or guilt, never knowing the peace that passes all understanding.
We are to be faithful people, because we have been forgiven.
Faith is the key to receiving pardon.
Faith is the key to receiving peace.
Faith is the key to serving God with a quiet mind.
In all of this, it is the Christian saying, “I have faith in you.” “I trust in you.” “I am not trusting in myself.” “I know that you have pardoned me of my sins.”
“I may trust in myself from time to time.” But even in that case we must call upon God to kill that inclination that is in us.
We ask God then to turn us out toward Him, rather than in on ourselves.
Pardon, trust, peace, serving God.
This is shown to us today in a unique way in the Gospel lesson.
Jesus, always on foot. Walking from town to town, teaching and healing.
He comes now to Cana in Galilee. This, John reminds us, is where earlier, Jesus turned water into wine.
A point of reference for those who at the time would have been familiar with the location.
Both Chrysostom and Augustine note in their commentaries that Jesus had been here before.
Only the Disciples believed on Jesus when He turned water into wine at that time…as well as a few servants.
And they both say, Jesus has returned to this town to try again to widen His reach and convert some.
An official comes to Jesus.
The official is thought by commentators to possibly be a royal court official from Herod Antipas.
He seems so have heard about Jesus’ healing powers. Though certainly not a Christian at this point, we do see the very small seed of faith appearing here.
He at least came to Jesus. His son is ill with some sort of a fever. That is all we are told here. But he was at least willing to come to Jesus and try.
But so much of this account centers on the Official.
Jesus of course is central, but Jesus uses this Official as the foil to demonstrate the need for faith,
the need to call upon Him,
to ask for things,
to persevere in asking,
and to believe that you will receive rightly…to then set the mind at peace.
The Official asks Jesus to come down to his house and heal his son. Jesus, as we know, can heal from any distance.
This man needs the touch of Jesus. Perhaps he had heard about how Jesus heals by touching. We cannot fault the man for this, since his faith is small, and it is partly misguided…and of course true miracle workers are rare.
The Official is urgent and pressured by the impending death of his son.
He is uninformed about Jesus’ power to do anything at any time, from any distance.
But what do we first make of this rebuke from Jesus? “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”?
We might first hear this better as Jesus saying, “Where is your faith? It needs to be stronger than this.”
Jesus is always challenging people. No matter how far they come, He wants them to come farther.
Jesus is first working with this Official to teach him that his faith is not strong enough.
Jesus is encouraging him with this light rebuke to get him to ask in faith and boldness and without doubting. ...as He wants us to do as well.
But the Official’s reply to Jesus is, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Maybe sounding a bit more desperate.
He asks in a stronger tone. Sir come down before my child dies. He needs you to come down and lay a hand upon him and heal him.
I know you can do this, as you have done it for others. Come down and do it for my child also.
He has not yet grasped what Jesus is saying to him. The Official seems to almost at this point be slipping in faith. He needs it his way.
He becomes urgent. Come to the house!
So rather than debate the man, or go to the house, Jesus simply defeats the man’s lack of faith in a word, “Go; your son will live.”
The Official did not have the composure that he should have.
And Jesus wants to work that same sort of composure in us. That same trust.
A trust that is based on knowing that whatever we need, Christ will provide. It just might not be immediate, or it might not be what we want. (when)
Again, this is based on the Collect in part. We prayed for pardon and peace.
When we know that the pardon we desire from God has been accomplished in Christ, then we should be at peace.
The peace that passes all understanding is what guards our hearts and minds.
The peace that passes all understanding is what should change and shape the way we pray and ask God for things.
We all should take note of this event.
Think about what St. Paul tells us this morning in the Epistle.
There is not really a close connection among the three propers here this morning, but if pardon is what we have acquired and peace is the result, then here is what St. Paul says is now how we live.
strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.” Right there we have a
simple statement of what our faith is to be like.
Be strong in the Lord. Let nothing that comes your way be stronger. Let no event or happening or affliction or trouble overtake your faith in Christ.
Since all that comes to us as Christians is for our good, we should look at it this way anyway.
All events for the Christian are for his good. (correction, growth)
All things that happen, even the serious and hard and painful are for growth and strength….not punishment.
The punishment is a past event, poured out on Christ, once and for all, for our sins, for us and for our salvation.
Anything now that happens to us is sent by God to build us up.
Paul goes on to show what kind of faith we are to have. He likens it to armor.
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”
“Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day.” The evil day would be whenever evils assail us.
He is not talking about some future event in particular, but the day-to-day life of the Christian and all of the challenges that go along with it.
Here is the armor of the faithful Christian.
The belt of truth.
The breastplate of righteousness.
The Gospel as shoes that make us ready.
The shield of faith.
The helmet of salvation.
The sword of the Spirit…which is likened to the Scriptures.
But also, he says, praying at all times. At anytime you can or think about it, pray. This will also build faith.
Pray, intercede for others.
So, Jesus and the official….
Jesus, with this short, word of comfort, says to the man, Go home… your son is fine. He is well.
At this, the man’s faith is turned once again to the right direction and is informed by the Word of Christ to him.
John says, “The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.”
This doesn’t mean that the Official’s faith had been perfected at that immediate moment.
It meant that he accepted the Word of Christ at that moment and without hesitation, headed home.
He has to now trust what he does not see.
He has to trust what Jesus has said to him. By his reaction he at least done this much….to head home to see if this was really true. (get confirmation)
He is caught between a belief of the truth and his still weak understanding of the power of God in Christ.
You can imagine your own child being sick.
You find Jesus… you only know about Him but have probably not seen Him doing any miracles…but you have heard testimony after testimony and conversation and people rejoicing at seeing and experiencing Jesus’ power.
You then find Him yourself, go to Him with your request and He just says, “Granted. It is done as you have asked.”
What would be our immediate thought?
“You are kidding!” “Seriously?” “No way!” ….to put it in the terms we use today.
But even before the Official is able to arrive home and see for himself, his servants are on their way to meet him on the road.
Just imagine this. The servants are coming to you….but with what news? The apprehension. The Anticipation.
And they said to him, “Your son is recovering.”
What might he have felt at that moment? “Your son is recovering.”
Do you say, well that was good timing?
Do you say, as we might tend to, that maybe God had begun to heal the child around the same time anyway?
This is not the way we are to see this, for we know the whole event from start to finish, and we know this was the power of Christ.
It was no coincidence. It was not luck. It was not that the child was not really sick in the first place.
The Official asked. He implored. And he received.
He now has in his mind the time when he was speaking with Jesus.
“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.’”
And it says, “The [Official] knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live.’”
Breaking this down moment by moment is very insightful for us.
From the very moment that he asked Jesus for the help, though he was panicked or at least very concerned and was not sure how it would turn out…
…even before he is able to arrive home to verify the news from Jesus, the servants are coming toward him with the good news. “Your son is recovering.”
And as it should be, John tells us, “And he himself believed, and all his household.”
That is the result Jesus desired and got.
Chrysostom: So, what are we taught by these things? We are taught not to wait for miracles or to [wait to]seek promises of the power of God…
So he says, we should not hesitate to ask in prayer for what we need.
He says, …I see a lot of people, even now, who become more pious when, during the sufferings of a child or the sickness of a wife, they see any sign of relief…”
So he detects an increase in faith in the smallest of improvement.
He says, …And yet, even if their child or wife did not obtain that relief, they still should persist in giving thanks and in glorifying God. Because right-minded servants and those who love their Master as they ought… should run to him not only when they are pardoned but also when chastised. For this too also shows the tender care of God, since “those whom the Lord loves he also chastens.” Homilies on the Gospel of John 35.3.
For God so loved us, that He spared us the chastening and He laid it upon His Son in our stead.
He bore the weight of our sins and He bore the weight of God’s wrath upon sin…so that we did not have to.
This message of pardon should be all that we need to bring us to a place where we can rest at peace.
We see three stages of faith in the Official. The final stage there was the he and his whole family and household believed.
Cyril of Alexandria – “The one command of the Savior heals two souls.
In the official, the Savior’s command brings about unexpected faith even as it also rescues the child from bodily death. It is difficult to say which one is healed first. Both, I suppose, are healed simultaneously.
The disease left at the command of the Savior. The official’s servants meet him and tell him of the healing of the child…He attributes the power of the miracle to the Savior Christ, and he is brought to a firmer faith.” Commentary on the Gospel of John 2.5.
May this account of Jesus and the Official today bring us to a firmer faith as well.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.