Join us as we learn to seek God and honor Him with our life so that we will be made whole and find peace.
October 29, 2023
By Ben Caldwell
Introduction: There is this old illustration of Faith. It goes like this. If you saw a chair. And someone ask you if you had faith in that chair. You might look at it and think, “Yeah, that will probably hold me up.” So you have confessed some level of faith. But you haven’t really placed your faith in that chair till you actually sit in it. I want to talk about a passage of scripture that teaches us what faith SHOULD Look like.
We will begin with John 4:43
History: Jesus and his disciples (who are all Jewish) are traveling, and they pass through this area where the people are half-breeds, half-Jewish. So Jesus and his followers come to this town. And Jesus sits to rest by the town’s well, while his followers go to buy food. He ends up miraculously changing this woman’s life and because of that miracle, many people in the town come to trust in HIM. So he stays with them for two days. And the people profess a kind of faith in Jesus that is based on what they hear and understand. It says, “We have heard him and we know that this is the savior of the world.” But we are about to switch gears. Jesus is going to a place where there will be doubt. They faith will be based on what Jesus can do for them.
Then He leaves that town and comes back to Galilee, where most of his ministry took place. And that is where today’s passage begins. Let’s read together, verse 43:
John 4:43 After the two days he left for Galilee.
So Jesus has left Samaria, and he has gone back to his own region where he grew up. Galilee is a region. Jesus’ inaugural miracle, changing water into wine happened in a town called Cana (which is in Galilee). Jesus home town is Nazareth (which is in Galilee). And we are about to read about an encounter that Jesus has with a dad who lives in Capernaum (which is in Galilee). The furthest distance we are talking about between these three towns is about 20 miles. I looked up how big Newport News is. The internet says this city is 23 miles long and 3 miles wide. So the three towns we are talking about would all fit inside Newport News. So saying Jesus is in Galilee is like saying, he has come home to the county he grew up in.
And John offers us this commentary in verse 44. It says:
John 4:44 (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) 45 When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there.
There is an emphasis here, not on hearing Jesus’ teaching, but on seeing the miraculous things that Jesus has done. And there is a strange bit of grammar going on that I believe is intentionally odd. In verse 44, the word the NIV translates as “Now” is actually causative. It means “For” or “Because.” Why is that weird? John is saying Jesus went to Galilee BECAUSE he wouldn’t be welcomed there. And that makes you scratch your head a little bit. But as if that isn’t weird enough, then verse 45 tells us that Jesus was welcomed by the Galileans. So put all together it looks like this: Jesus is going to Galilee, because he won’t be welcomed by those people. And then he is welcomed by them. And we are told that they welcome Him BECAUSE they have seen the miracles he did in Jerusalem. It is appropriate to step back and ask, “What is going on here?”
I believe John Piper hits the nail on the head when he says, “They Galileans are welcoming Jesus in, because of what they believe he can do for them. Like “Come on in, Jesus! That’s my boy! That’s my miracle-working BOY! You need to be nice to this guy, cause he can do the supernatural for you!” He fed 5,000 people from 5 loaves and 2 fish! I want a free lunch, so I am going to follow him. He is healing people, I pulled something in my back, I want it to be made well, so I’m staying close to him. And that attitude… in Jesus’ estimation is a rejection of who he actually is. And we see the same thing in John 7:3. It says,
“3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, ‘You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.’ 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.”
The question is what did they believe?
-They believed Jesus could do miracles.
Piper says just like “… the Pharisees believed he raised Lazarus from the dead, but then they turned around and killed Jesus.” John is trying to get at something deep here. He is pointing out to us a WRONG kind of faith, a wrong way to follow Jesus.
What do you believe about Jesus?
-Do you believe He is a good luck charm?
-Do you believe, “I better stay close to Jesus so He will heal me when I get sick or have a problem with my spouse?”
-Do you love Him because He is THE GOD who loves you?
-Or do you love Him for what He can do for you?
See, He knows the difference in your motivation even when you don’t. And John is giving us a sharp distinction between those two kinds of belief.
46 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.
So there is what looks like a casual comment, He is in Cana, you remember when Jesus turned water into wine. But its not really causal. It has deep meaning. Those people who saw that miracle are interested in seeing more miracles. You know that every young engaged couple in Galilee who are planning to have a wedding had to be thinking, maybe we could get Jesus to come to our wedding and turn the water into wine, wouldn’t that be cool!” And then we read about this father who is feeling… desperation. Here is a heavy-hearted dad who’s son is on the verge of death. Who is he?
The term “Royal Official” means that he was the servant of a king. What king? Most likely we are talking about Herod Antipas. You might remember at Christmas time when Jesus is born, there is a king Herod the Great who has all the babies killed when the Magi come seeking the new king. At this point, Herod the Great has died and his kingdom is divided. And his son Herod Antipas would have been ruling Galilee. So this father is one of his officials. And John doesn’t really give us any clue as to what kind of faith this guy had in Jesus. We don’t know what he actually believes about Jesus. Not at this point.
And we should be asking what kind of faith does he have? Verse 47 makes it seem that the Royal Official hears Jesus is back in Cana, so he goes looking for Jesus. What we know for sure is that this Royal Official wants his dying son to be made well. So he begs Jesus and Jesus responds in verse 48:
48 “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”
Verse 48 says Jesus is talking TO HIM… to that heavy-hearted dad, the Royal Official! And Jesus says “All you Galileans want the same thing signs and wonders. Show us signs and wonders and we will believe.” That seems callous, cold… just mean to say to this poor man. OR… maybe Jesus is cutting through all the crap… maybe Jesus is laying this man’s motivations bear. This dad may not ever care who Jesus is. He is just there to get his son healed. But Jesus is addressing what is really important. According to Hebrews 4:12: 12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
And watch this. This guy, this royal official, a man of importance… doesn’t argue or act offended or try to justify himself. He just says, verse 49:
49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed.
-He accepts what Jesus offers him and goes.
-The dad is no longer looking for a miracle.
-He now believes Jesus’ word (this is John’s point to us).
Here is Jesus 15 miles away from the sick kid. And in a moment of glorious miraculous power, Jesus heals that child, without seeing him, without touching him… He just speaks a word and BOOM healing! And the dad who has asked, please come with me and heal my dying son, accepts that Jesus can do this miracle. But maybe there is still some doubt in him, because watch this next bit:
51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.”
What happened? They guy didn’t rush home to see if his son was healed! This royal official has been begging Jesus for healing. Jesus says, “Ok he’s healed.” The guy believes Jesus’ promise. And for whatever reason, this guy spends the night there in Cana. Did he have work there? Is he afraid to go home and see for himself whether it worked? It’s hard to say. But it isn’t until the next day that he returns home.
53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed. 54 This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.
Why did the man inquire about the time?
-Because he wanted to believe that Jesus was the cause of his son’s healing, but he wasn’t sure.
-The time of day served as a kind of confirmation that it was Jesus who had made Him well, and not just coincidence.
So the confirmation is what he needed to REALLY believe, not just the miracle. But the Royal Official needed some kind of proof that it was Jesus.
What does REAL BELIEF look like?
-That man needed to believe that Jesus was someone special, unlike any other healer.
-Jesus didn’t need to come to his Home.
-Jesus didn’t need to lay hands on his son. Jesus could heal the kid from 15 miles away. It’s not a trick or a concoction of herbs or blood-letting or some kind of ritual with positive natural properties. -This is about the person of Jesus Christ having power and the man recognizing (like the Samaritans in the previous account) believing that HE is the Messiah, the savior of the world.
-This guy may have believed in miracles. He may have believed that Jesus’ promise was worth something. But now he and his whole household have come to trust in the Person of Jesus who is unlike any other.
BE careful that you aren’t the kind of person who welcomes Jesus in, but actually doesn’t honor Him at all.
The phrase a prophet is not honored in his home town is somehow crucial to this. When you are tight with Jesus, when you are super close to him, there are going to be people who will reject what God is actually doing.
1. The pride of attachment
(they want his miracles to make them popular to feed their ego) Do you crave the secondary kudos over knowing Jesus? A movement a person a ministry an organization… are those connections feeding your ego?
Its not wrong to love those things. It is wrong to use those things to stroke your ego and to develop an over-sized sense of pride in these things.
2. A sense of entitlement that comes when you know people of influence.
Not, I’m so in love with God. And I want to magnify and glorify him forever. But after all I’ve done for God. I am entitled to… not have to get my hands messy in ministry. I’m entitled to a perfect retirement, a good life, an easy death…
3. A sense of overfamiliarity with Jesus.
He’s one of us. There is nothing special about him. He can’t do all that, because I have known him for so long. That can keep us blind. We can get so familiar with Bible stories that we don’t let him out of the book to be LORD in this world today.
The miracles don’t save us. Those can make idolaters out of people. We begin to worship the power or the miraculous. But God intends for the miracles to point us to who Jesus REALLY is.
So let’s take a minute and talk about this crazy world that we are living in. I want to talk about Israel and Hamas. I am not trying to be the ultimate authority. I don’t believe I have all of Bible prophecy figured out. I do not. If you want that, you should turn to God. But bear with me for a minute. Hamas is not a government. They are a Muslim extremist terrorist organization, like ISIS. In 2005 under the leadership of Ariel Sharon, Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip and left it completely to the Palestinians. The Palestinians elected Hamas as their governing leadership in that district.
Israel are the Jewish people of the Bible. In scripture we see that God dispersed the Israelites all over the world as a kind of punishment, but promised that a remnant would remain. In 1948, Israel was recognized by the United Nations as a country. And the United Nations worked to separate the people. They tried to make a Jewish state and an Arab state. Israel accepted the United Nations efforts, but the Arab countries didn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist or to have land. And since that very first day that Israel was recognized as a state, its Arab neighbors have been attacking Israel. Now, I’m not claiming Israel has always acted appropriately. Not at all. But these tensions are building.
I believe it was in 1967, there was an Arab summit in which Israel’s neighbors adopted a famous three NO’s. There will be no recognition. There will be no peace. And there will be no negotiations. That means The Arab nations will not recognize Israel as a sovereign state. They will not sign any peace treaty with Israel. And they will not negotiate with Israel. How could you function as a nation if all your neighbors held these standards? There is a charter for Hamas called the Hamas charter which says they exist for the destruction of Israel. They state the only solution is Jihad (or holy war).
Now let me get to what you might be wondering about. Are we looking at the end of the world as we know it? The answer is: probably not immediately, not from what I see in scripture. Because Hamas is not a country. And other countries in the world have not gotten involved… not yet. But I believe these things could lead toward the end… or at least toward what the Bible calls the battles of Gog and Magog. It is found in Ezekiel 38 and 39. The passages I’m talking about talk about how all this is going to happen many years in the future. Countries in the far North (maybe Russian) will band together with other nations and attack Israel. But God is planning to intervene in this war and display his power by destroying these other armies through a variety of means. But in the end, God is planning all this to help restore Israel and to make himself known to people.
Is the idea of a possible world war frightening? Yes, it is. But the question today is the same one that John raised so long ago.
What does REAL BELIEF in Jesus look like?
-Will you be the person who trusts in Jesus because he has given you a safe life and a good marriage and sheltered you from hardship.
-Or do you believe in the glory and sovereignty of an almighty God who has power over the entire globe?
-But the question is do you really TRUST the one who holds the future?
If you do, then you need to remember that God hasn’t called you to be a citizen of the United States. He hasn’t asked you to be a democrat or a republican. God says in Philippians 3 we read:
18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Folks, God is sovereign. That Jesus who was able to speak a word and save a dying child 15 miles away is more than able to rescue you. And even if he means for this war to be one of the last wars on the planet… it isn’t catching him off guard. So get serious about your belief in Him. Learn to love God and delight in His word. Don’t just look to Him to be God who is your lucky rabbits foot. He’s not there just to keep you safe or to keep you from dying. In fact, his plan is that we wouldn’t go on and on and on in this sinful world anyway, but that He would give us new bodies like His glorious body. What I am saying is DO NOT BE AFRAID! God is still sovereign! Look to Him. And if you have friends who don’t know him, get busy having those spiritual conversations, just in case the time is short.
Let me ask you:
-Do you believe this (Bible) is the Word of God?
-Or are you just accustomed to gather in this room and hearing stories out of just another book?
Maybe you are dealing with pride, entitlement, or overfamiliarity with Jesus… and maybe that is keeping you from really trusting in Christ. Change that. Seek Him. Honor Him with your life. And you will be made whole. You will find peace.