Sunday, March 15, 2020
“Seeing ≠ Believing”
Service Orientation: Jesus is not limited by any earthly circumstance. What’s often limiting is our level of trust in Jesus and His sovereign plan. Simply trust Him.
Memory Verse for the Week: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6
- The man involved was a servant of Herod the Tetrarch, a title comparable to a governor. The man traveled some 15 miles from Capernaum to find Jesus. His plea was urgent, for his son was dying with an acute fever. Nothing else was important to that man just then. (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 46)
- Though Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea (the Evangelist knows this is Jesus’origin; see John 7:41-42, 52), the Evangelist nevertheless portrayed Him as a Galilean by residence and family connections (2:1-2; 7:1-10). (Joseph Dongell, John: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 82)
- It was the rejection by Jerusalem, the center and symbol of all that was His “own country,” that caused Him to journey northward to Galilee. And in doing this, He refers to an ancient proverb that “a prophet has no honor in his own country.” Here is that somber theme that John has introduced at the very outset of his Gospel, “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (1:11). (Roger L. Fredrikson, The Communicator’s Commentary: John, 108)
- 47 The report that Jesus had healed people in Jerusalem must have reached this man’s ears. Learning that Jesus had returned to Galilee, the man immediately sought Jesus out and urged him to heal his son, who was dangerously ill. The imperfect tense of the verb “begged” (ērōta, from erōtaō, to “ask” or “request”) implies repeated or persistent action. The request was not casual but insistent. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, 60)
- Was this man a Jew or a Gentile? We do not know, nor do we know his exact position in the government. He may have been a member of Herod’s court, but whatever his national or social standing, he was clearly at his wit’s end and desperately needed the help of the Savior. (Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 1, 303) .
The question to be answered is…
What should we learn from this encounter with the royal official about Jesus and faith?
Jesus is not limited by any earthly circumstance or crisis. And while Jesus definitely heals, those who have motive NOT to believe will do so at all cost. Jesus is seeking those who will, like this royal official, simply trust him.
The word of the day is… trust
3 “crises” to consider in light of this text…
- Crisis of circumstance | the sick son.
(Ps. 34:17-20; John 16:33; 2 Cor. 4:17; Phil. 4:19; Ja. 5:14-16)
So here was a nobleman yet his son lay at the point of death. The rich have their troubles as well as the poor. Dwellers in palaces are little better off than those who live in cottages. Let Christians beware of setting their hearts on worldly riches. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 232)
There is no more common, or more mischievous error, than to suppose that the rich have no cares. The rich are as liable to sickness as the poor; and have a hundred anxieties beside, of which the poor know nothing at all. (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John Vol.1, 177)
- Crisis of distance | between Jesus and the son.
(Gen. 8:14; Ex. 4:11-12; Jer. 32:17, 27; Luke 1:37; Eph. 3:20)
One of these Galileans, hearing that Jesus had come to Cana, hurried the distance of about fifteen miles from Capernaum to ask His help. (Joseph Dongell, John: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 82)
If Christ could heal this dying boy, who was at least ten miles away, by the word of His mouth, He can give eternal life today by His word even though He is away in heaven. Distance is no barrier to Him. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 237)
Christ’s word is as good as Christ’s presence. (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John Vol.1, 179)
- Crisis of faith | simple belief or distrustful worry?
(Jos. 1:9; Ps. 55:22; Is. 41:10; Mat. 6:25-34; Luke 12:25; John 14:1; Phil 4:6-7; 1 Pet. 5:7)
There is far more at stake here than saving the physical life of a child, crucial as that is. And that is the spiritual birth, the total healing of this official and his household. (Roger L. Fredrikson, The Communicator’s Commentary: John, 109)
There are no lessons so useful as those learned in the school of affliction. (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John Vol.1, 179)
The nobleman’s faith had burst into a flame; he no longer believed in a report about Jesus – he believed the actual word of Jesus. He didn’t wait for a sign, but he heard the word, and on that word, he hung his confidence. (Charles Spurgeon, Life in Christ: Lessons from Our Lord’s Miracles and Parables, 230)
Conclusion… How should my faith be impacted in light of this text?
A. In every circumstance, trust Jesus’ sovereignty.
(1 Chr. 29:11-12; Job. 42:2; Ps. 115:3; Prov. 19:21; Is. 46:9-10; Dan. 4:35; Rom. 8:28)
The real challenge of Christian living is not to eliminate every uncomfortable circumstance from our lives, but to trust our sovereign, wise, good, and powerful God in the midst of every situation. (John MacArthur, Anxious for Nothing, 40)
Affliction is one of God’s medicines. By it he often teaches lessons which would be learned in no other way. By it he often draws souls away from sin and the world, which would otherwise have perished everlastingly. Health is a great blessing, but sanctified disease is a greater. Prosperity and worldly comfort are what all naturally desire; but losses and crosses are far better for us, if they lead us to Christ. (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John Vol.1, 178-179)
B. In every season, trust Jesus’ timing.
(Ps. 31:14-15; Jer. 17:7-8; Ecc. 3:1; Rom. 5:1-5; 8:18-21; John 16:33)
Faith recognizes that God is in control, not man. Faith does it God’s way, in God’s timing according to His good pleasure. Faith does not take life into its own hands, but in respect and trust places it in God’s. (Kay Arthur, When Bad Things Happen, 87)
Jesus does not refrain from entering our sick, fallen, and crooked world. Instead, he humbly came into this world to feel what we feel and face what we face while remaining sinless. Subsequently, Jesus can both sympathize with and deliver us. Practically, this means that in our time of need, we can run to Jesus our sympathetic priest who lives to serve us and give us grace and mercy for anything that life brings. (Mark Driscoll, Doctrine, 238)
C. In every crisis, trust Jesus’ character.
(Is. 9:6; John 1:1; 8:58; 10:30; 17:3; Rom. 6:23; Eph. 1:3; Col. 2:9; 1 Tim. 2:5)
Faith involves certain beliefs. Faith involves an attitude of hope and confidence. But at its core, faith is trusting a person. (John Ortberg, Faith and Doubt, 51)
Jesus’ acceptance of a member of Herod’s court would perhaps be the best possible example of God’s scandalous, gracious love, whether or not this official is a Gentile. (Rodney A. Whitacre, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: John, 115)
Jesus’ miracles were not so much violations of the natural order, but a restoration of the natural order. God did not create a world with blindness, leprosy, hunger, and death in it. Jesus’ miracles were signs that someday all these corruptions of his creation would be abolished. (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, 126)
Jesus is worthy of our worship because He alone can offer hope and healing to those who are hurting.
(Jer. 17:14; Is. 41:10; 53:5; Acts 4:30; Phil. 4:19; 1 Pet. 2:24; Ja. 5:15)
Worship is a voluntary act of gratitude offered by the saved to the Savior, by the healed to the Healer, and by the delivered to the Deliverer. (Max Lucado, In The Eye of the Storm, 163)
If your faith leads you to prayer, it is the acknowledged child of grace, because true-born faith always cries. If your faith helps you grab hold of Jesus with a firm grip and say, “I won’t let go unless you bless me,” it may be small faith, but it is true faith. (Charles Spurgeon, Life in Christ: Lessons from Our Lord’s Miracles and Parables, 225)
Jesus came to save and heal sinners from the worst of all sicknesses; the sickness of sin. Look to Him!
It is love, not anger, brought Jesus to the cross. Golgotha came as a result great desire to forgive, not his reluctance. Jesus knew that by vicarious suffering he could actually absorb all the evil of humanity and so heal it, forgive it, redeem it. (Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 143)
There are men who say that there is no heaven. I once talked with a man who said he thought there was nothing to justify us in believing in any other heaven than what we know here on earth. If this is heaven, it is a very strange one – this world of sickness, sorrow, and sin. From the depths of my heart, I pity the man or woman who has that idea. (D.L. Moody, Heaven: The Place We Long For, 6)
Spiritual Challenge Questions…
Reflect on these questions in your time with the Lord this week, or discuss with a Christian family member or life group.
- If Jesus has the ability and authority to heal every sickness, why might He not always exercise healing for people who seek it?
- How has sickness or pain impacted your faith? Does sickness drive you to Jesus (like the royal official), or cause you to question?
- Does the reality of the world’s fallen state have any impact on your view of sickness? If so, how?
- How can or should this royal official’s faith serve as an inspiration for yours?
- How can the reality of God’s sovereignty and grace serve to encourage you when either you or a loved one experience sickness?
Quote to note…
I do not pray that you may be delivered from your pains, but I pray GOD earnestly that He would give you strength and patience to bear them as long as He pleases. Comfort yourself with Him who holds you fastened to the cross. He will loose you when He thinks fit. Happy those who suffer with Him: accustom yourself to suffer in that manner, and seek from Him the strength to endure as much, and as long, as He shall judge to be necessary for you. The men of the world do not comprehend these truths, nor is it to be wondered at, since they suffer like what they are, and not like Christians. They consider sickness as a pain to nature, and not as a favor from GOD; and seeing it only in that light, they find nothing in it but grief and distress. But those who consider sickness as coming from the hand of GOD, as the effect of His mercy, and the means which He employs for their salvation—such, commonly find in it great sweetness and sensible consolation.
But those who consider sickness as coming from the hand of GOD, as the effect of His mercy, and the means which He employs for their salvation—such, commonly find in it great sweetness and sensible consolation.
I wish you could convince yourself that GOD is often (in some sense) nearer to us, and more effectually present with us, in sickness than in health. Rely upon no other Physician; for, according to my apprehension, He reserves your cure to Himself. Put, then, all your trust in Him, and you will soon find the effects of it in your recovery, which we often retard by putting greater confidence in physic than in GOD.
Whatever remedies you make use of, they will succeed only so far as He permits. When pains come from GOD, He only can cure them. He often sends diseases of the body to cure those of the soul. Comfort yourself with the sovereign Physician both of the soul and body. (Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God, 44-45, Kindle Edition.)
Further Quotes and Research
I think it is proper for us to say that a genuine Christian should be a walking mystery because he surely is a walking miracle. (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship, 75)
If you get off on the line of personal holiness or Divine healing or the Second Coming of Our Lord, and make any of these your end, you are disloyal to Jesus Christ. Supposing the Lord has healed your body and you make Divine healing your end, the dead set of your life is no longer for God but for what you are pleased to call the manifestation of God in your life. Bother your life! “It can never be God’s will that I should be sick.” If it was God’s will to bruise His own Son, why should it not be His will to bruise you? The thing that tells is not relevant consistency to an idea of what a saint’s life is, but abandonment abjectly to Jesus Christ whether you are well or ill. (Oswald Chambers, The Complete Works of Oswald Chambers, 912-913)
It’s virtually impossible to know everything about a particular topic, and it’s certainly impossible when that topic is an infinite God. So there has to come a point where you realize you have enough information to come to a conclusion, even if unanswered questions remain. (Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Fatih to be an Atheist, 25)
God has provided enough evidence in this life to convince anyone willing to believe, yet he has also left some ambiguity so as not to compel the unwilling. (Norman L. Geisler & Frank Turek, I Don’t Have Enough Fatih to be an Atheist, 31)
When Jesus healed the sick and cast out demons and raised the dead and helped the poor, he was demonstrating what made “the gospel of the kingdom” good news. “He went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people” (Matt. 4:23). As he opened his ministry in Nazareth, Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18). These were the kinds of blessings that mark the reign of God in this age partly, and in the age to come completely. (John Piper, God is the Gospel, 32)
Sometimes in order to see what you’ve never seen before, you have to forget whatever you’ve heard before. (Newton, Doug. Fresh Eyes on Jesus’ Miracles: Discovering New Insights in Familiar Passages (p. 47). David C Cook. Kindle Edition. )
The first prayers that come from many hearts are inspired by grief for dearly loved little ones. (Spurgeon, Charles H.. Life in Christ: Lessons from Our Lord’s Miracles and Parables (p. 221). Aneko Press. Kindle Edition. )
What he did believe was that the Lord Jesus could prevent his child from dying from the fever if he would come to his house. He had believed that much, which is how much faith he had, and he turned that faith into practice immediately. You don’t know yet how great my Lord is and what wonderful things he does for those who put their trust in him, but you’re saying, “Surely he could help me in my present trial and deliver me out of my present difficulty.” So far, so good. Use what faith you have. Let me encourage you to bring your trial before the Lord. If you can’t come to him for heavenly things, you may begin with the sorrows and trials of earth. If you can’t come to him for an eternal blessing, you can come to him for help in your current situation, and he’s ready to hear you. Even if your prayer is only about worldly things and nothing more than a purely natural prayer, pray it. (Spurgeon, Charles H.. Life in Christ: Lessons from Our Lord’s Miracles and Parables (pp. 222-223). Aneko Press. Kindle Edition.)
The ravens can only ask for worms and flies, but [God] hears them and feeds them. He who gives the beast his food and to the sons of the ravens which cry unto him (Psalm 147:9). (Spurgeon, Charles H.. Life in Christ: Lessons from Our Lord’s Miracles and Parables (p. 223). Aneko Press. Kindle Edition. )
If he could only convince the Lord Jesus to enter the room where the sick child lay, he believed that Jesus would speak to the fever, and the fever would be eased. He had no idea that the Lord Jesus Christ could work at the distance of twenty-five miles. He had no concept that the word of the Lord could operate apart from his presence. Still, it was better to have that faith than none at all. (Spurgeon, Charles H.. Life in Christ: Lessons from Our Lord’s Miracles and Parables (p. 223). Aneko Press. Kindle Edition.)
He believed that Jesus had to travel to the bedside of the boy if His healing power were to be effective: the limitation of distance. He believed that Jesus’ power was effective only as long as the boy remained alive: the limitation of death. In this case, Jesus transcended the limitation of distance by healing, at His word, the boy lying miles away. Later, in the case of Lazarus, Jesus would reach beyond the limitation of death to restore life. (Joseph Dongell, John: A Bible Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition, 83)
While faith can never finally rest on mighty works, they can be a point of beginning. How gracious that He starts with any one of us where we are, often with our gawking curiosity asking for more wonders, but He knows that our only hope will be to finally believe in Him. (Roger L. Fredrikson, The Communicator’s Commentary: John, 108)
How ironic that while the religious leaders of Jerusalem reject Jesus, the servant of a worldly prince should come to believe in Him “with his whole household” (v. 53). (Roger L. Fredrikson, The Communicator’s Commentary: John, 109)
There is a contagion about the new life. It always reproduces itself. It is corporate, communal. (Roger L. Fredrikson, The Communicator’s Commentary: John, 110)
48 The reply of Jesus seems like a heartless rejection. He seemed to insinuate that the official, like the rest of the Galileans, was only giving an excuse for eliciting a miracle from him. On the other hand, Jesus’ words may express his hope more than his exasperation. He desired a belief characterized by dedication rather than amazement, and the second half of the episode shows that his aim was to inculcate a genuine commitment rather than merely to perform a cure. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, 60)
By dismissing the official with the statement that his son was alive, Jesus created a dilemma of faith. If the father refused to return to Capernaum without taking Jesus with him, he would show that he did not believe Jesus’ word and would consequently receive no benefit because of his distrust. On the other hand, if he followed Jesus’ order, he would be returning to the dying boy with no outward assurance that the lad would recover. He was forced to make the difficult choice between insisting on evidence and thus showing disbelief and of exercising faith without any tangible proof to encourage him. The official chose the second horn of the dilemma; he “took Jesus at his word” (ASV “believed the word”) and set out on his return journey. He learned faith by the compulsion of necessity. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, 60)
53-54 When the father considered the details of his meeting with Jesus and the good news concerning his son’s recovery, he was convinced that it was more than coincidence at work. The timing was miraculous, and the boy’s recovery was more than even circumstances could have brought about. “So he and his household believed,” (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, 60)
Faith is belief that God is who and what Jesus reveals him to be, the loving Father, and it is trust in this God. This official seems to have something of this faith. (Rodney A. Whitacre, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series: John, 115)
During those days spent in Samaria many had believed on Christ to the saving of their souls. And now the Saviour leaves that happy scene and departed into a country where He had received no honour. How evident it is that He pleased not Himself! He had come here to do the will of the Father, and now we see Him following the path marked out for Him. Surely there is an important lesson here for every servant of God today: no matter how successful and popular we may be in a place, we must move on when God has work for us elsewhere. The will of the One who has commissioned us must determine all our actions. Failure must not make us lag behind, nor success urge us to run before. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 227)
No doubt this nobleman had tried every remedy which money could produce. But money is not almighty. Many invest it with an imaginary value that it is far from possessing. Money can not purchase happiness, nor can it ensure health. There is just as much sickness among the aristocracy as there is among the common artisans. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 233)
This domestic trial was a blessing in disguise, for it caused the anxious father to seek out Christ, and this resulted in him believing, and ultimately his whole house believed. God uses many different agents in predisposing men to receive and believe His Word. No doubt these lines will be read by more than one who dates his first awakening to the time when some loved one lay at death’s door – it was then lie was made to think seriously and saw the need for preparing to meet God. It is well when trouble leads a man to God, instead of away from God. Affliction is one of God’s medicines; then let us beware of murmuring in time of trouble. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 233)
“Except ye see signs and wonders ye will not believe.” How searching this is! Is it not a word that many of us need? Is it not at this very point we most often fail? We ask God for a certain thing, and we have a measure of faith that it will be given us; but in the interval of waiting the bare word of God is not sufficient for us-we crave a “sign.” (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 234)
We trust these words will come home to the hearts of Christian parents who read this chapter. In the action of this father who came to Christ on behalf of his child there is an example which you will do well to emulate. If you are not deeply concerned about the soul’s welfare of your children, who is likely to be? It is your bounden duty to teach them the Word of God, it is your holy privilege to bring them in prayer to God. Do not\u2029 \u2029turn over to a Sunday School teacher what is incumbent upon you. Teach your little ones the Scriptures from their earliest \u2029infancy.(Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 235-236)
The Lord never turns away a soul that truly seeks Him. There may be much ignorance (as indeed there is in all of us), there may be much of the flesh mixed in with our appeals, but if the heart is really set on Him, He always responds. And not only so, invariably He does far more for us than we ask or think. It was so here. He not only healed the son of this nobleman, but He did so immediately, by the word of His power. (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 236)
While faith can never finally rest on mighty works, they can be a point of beginning. (Roger L. Fredrikson, Mastering the New Testament: John, 108)
There is far more at stake here than saving the physical life of a child, crucial as that is. And that is the spiritual birth, the total healing of this official and his household. This can only happen if one has authentic faith in the One who is the Healer. So Jesus will allow this man to come to that lonely, helpless place where all his false defenses and supports are surrendered and he will obey any command that is given. (Roger L. Fredrikson, Mastering the New Testament: John, 109)
The unbelief and hostility of Judea opens the door for this healing ministry in Galilee where there is still a climate of acceptance. Judea’s loss is Galilee’s gain. (Roger L. Fredrikson, Mastering the New Testament: John, 110)
The question we must face is not only what was going on in Jesus’ ministry but whether we ourselves are learning to make proper and appropriate use of the ‘signs’ that we are given. (N.T. Wright, John for Everyone, Part 1, 52)
The distinction between believing because we’ve seen something and believing on the strength of Jesus’ words remains important throughout the gospel. It reaches its final dramatic statement in Jesus’ gentle rebuke to Thomas in 20.29: ‘Have you believed because you’ve seen? Blessed are those who haven’t seen, and yet believe!’ (N.T. Wright, John for Everyone, Part 1, 53)
We are not invited to believe in an abstract idea, or a nebulous feeling, or an indefinable spiritual experience. We are invited to believe in the Word become flesh. But genuine faith is always seeking the Word hidden in the flesh, not using the Word simply as a way of getting at the flesh. (N.T. Wright, John for Everyone, Part 1, 53)
John 4:48 was not a rebuke of this nobleman. Rather, it was our Lord’s lament at the spiritual condition of the people in general, both in Judea and Galilee. “Seeing is believing” has always been the “pragmatic” philosophy of the lost world, even the religious world. The nobleman believed that Jesus could heal his son, but he made two mistakes in his thinking: that Jesus had to go to Capernaum to save the lad, and that if the boy died meanwhile, it was too late. (Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 1, 303)
Both the Samaritan woman and this anonymous nobleman must have rejoiced the heart of Jesus as they believed the Word and acted on it. (Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary Vol. 1, 303)
Gold and silver can lift no man beyond the reach of trouble: they may shut out debt and rags, but they cannot shut out care, disease, and death. The higher the tree the more it is shaken by storms: the broader its branches, the greater is the mark which it exposes to the tempest. (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John Vol.1, 177)
He only is truly rich who has treasure in heaven. (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John Vol.1, 177)
We are apt to shut our eyes to plain facts, and to speak and act as if young people, as a matter of course, never died when young- And yet the grave-stones in every churchyard would tell us that few people out of a hundred ever live to be fifty years old, while many never grow up to man’s estate at all. The first grave that ever was dug on this earth, was that of a young man: the first person who ever died, was not a father but a son. Aaron lost two sons at a stroke. David, the man after Gods own heart, lived long enough to see three children buried. Job was deprived of all his children in one day. These things were carefully recorded for our learning. (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John Vol.1, 178
We never know what a day may bring forth. The strongest and fairest are often cut down and hurried away in a few hours, while the old and feeble linger on for many years. The only true wisdom is to be always prepared to meet God, to put nothing off which concerns eternity, and to live like men ready to depart at any moment. (J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on John Vol.1, 178)
There are cultures where the word or belief of the head of the household represents what each member of the house believes. New Testament evidence points to these kinds of responses in more than one case (Acts 10:2; 16:15, 33) This strikes our individualistic culture as somewhat unusual. But, in fact, even in modern families, when one member of the family is profoundly and clearly changed by the gospel, the effects tend to spread throughout the rest of the family. How different would the state of the Christian church be today if heads of households provided real spiritual leadership in their homes? (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 96)