Readings: John 4:46-54
Grace to you and peace in Jesus Christ, the life-giving Word of God. Amen.
Today we come across the first story of healing in the Gospel of John. With everything going on in our world today – with the ongoing pandemic, with political divisions and protests, with the exhaustion that I’m sure so many of us are feeling, couldn’t we all use some words of healing right now?
So today, Jesus, returns from his pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover, and he arrives in Galilee. He comes back to the place where he changed the water into wine: the little village of Cana. You can imagine that everyone in that small town has been talking about what happened at that wedding for weeks now. So when Jesus arrives, word spreads like wildfire that he’s back in town.
Meanwhile, in the city of Capernaum, on the shores of the sea of Galilee, there is a royal official, a man who has a cushy desk job in the courts of the Roman government. And his son is ill.
Now this man has status. He knows people in high places. He’s got access to the best doctors and healers in Galilee, and he’s tried all of them. But no one has been able to heal his son. And his son’s illness has gotten worse, and worse, and worse, to the point where this little boy is close to death.
This royal official hears word that Jesus is in Galilee. He’s heard about the water turned to wine. He’s heard about Jesus’ teaching in Jerusalem. He thinks to himself, “This man is a healer. He’s a teacher, a miracle worker, a man of God. If anyone can heal my son, this man can.”
So, the royal official decides to leave his son’s bedside, and go find Jesus. He decides to go out on a limb, and make the journey to Cana. “It’s two days there, and two days back. Will my son even make it that long? What if he dies while before I can get back?” But he’s got to try.
So, the man starts out on his journey. He stays the night at an inn somewhere on the road, and the next day he finally makes it to Cana. He starts asking around the town, but it is a small town after all, so it doesn’t take long to track down where Jesus is staying.
The man explains everything to Jesus. He pours out his soul. He begs Jesus to come with him back to Capernaum, so that his son might be healed.
Jesus’ response is unexpected. It’s almost as if Jesus didn’t hear a word he said. “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” What does that mean? Is Jesus sloughing him off?
The royal official is at his wit’s end. His son is dying. He’s come all this way. He needs an answer from Jesus. He pleads with Jesus: “Please, sir, come down before my little boy dies.”
Have you ever been in this man’s shoes? Has there ever been a time in your life when someone dear to you, someone you love, has been seriously ill, perhaps even facing death? Have you ever found yourself saying, “We’ve been everywhere. We’ve tried everything. Please, is there anything you can do to help?”
Maybe you have experienced the anguish that this man is feeling. The sense of helplessness. The sense of desperation. The sense that, if there was anything I could do, I would do it, any price I could pay, I would pay it. I would go to the ends of the earth and back, if it could bring healing to the one I love.
“Please, sir, come down before my little boy dies.”
And then Jesus speaks a life-giving word to this man. Jesus speaks a word of promise. “Go, your son is alive.”
Life-giving words, from the Word of Life. An answer, but not the answer the man was asking for. He asked Jesus, “Please come with me.” But Jesus says, “Go, your son is alive.”
Jesus promise of life requires faith. It requires trust. This father has left his son’s side to come seek Jesus, and now he must turn and go home, with no proof that his son will be healed, nothing to guarantee that when he gets there, his son will even be alive. Nothing, except Jesus’ word: “Go, your son is alive.”
But for this father, Jesus’ word is enough.
So, at one in the afternoon, this father turns and starts on his journey home, without any proof, without any guarantee, only a promise from the Word of Life.
Trusting in this promise, the man turns around, and begins the long journey home.
Trusting in this promise, he walks as far as he can before dark.
Trusting in this promise, he finds an inn and stays the night.
Trusting in this promise, he gets up early the next morning, and sets out on the road once again.
And somewhere between Cana and Capernaum, he meets his servants. His servants, who at one in the afternoon the previous day had set out from Capernaum to find him. One in the afternoon: the same time he turned to go home. One in the afternoon: the hour when Jesus spoke his promise of life: “Go, your son is alive.” One in the afternoon: the hour the child’s fever left him.
“How is my son?” he asks.
“Your son is alive!”
Jesus, the Word of Life, spoke a word of promise, and the gift of life was given, to a son, and to his father.
And in the same way that Jesus spoke a word of promise to this royal official, to this father of a son, Jesus speaks a word of promise to us.
“I have come so that you may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10.
We have no evidence. No proof. No bill of guarantee.
But through our baptism, Jesus calls us to trust in this promise, to live our whole lives in the light of this promise.
So just like the father who sought healing for his son:
we get up each morning, trusting in this promise;
we walk the road set before us each day, trusting in this promise;
and we go to bed each night, trusting in this promise:
That the Word became flesh, so that we might have life, and have it abundantly.
For God so loved the world, that God gave God’s only son, so that all who believe in him may not perish, but have abundant and eternal life.