Trinity 21

"Not By Signs and Wonders"

St. John 4.46-54

Seminarian Brian Johnston, Vicar

+ Grace, mercy, and peace unto you, from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. +

Jesus comes full circle. He comes back to Cana in Galilee where he performed his first miracle, turning water into wine. So what is going to happen this time? This time a Roman official comes to Jesus to bring him to his young son to perform another miracle because his son is on the edge of death. This father is desperate, as any parent would be. Not long ago, the world witnessed the desperation of the Gard family in England who desperately tried to get treatment for their dying newborn son Charlie. Charlie was born with a rare genetic condition called MDDS that causes muscle weakness and brain damage. Charlie’s parents went through a number of different courts and doctors around the world looking for treatments for their child and fighting the hospital to keep their child on life support until help could be found. Unfortunately, no treatment was possible for Charlie. Charlie was baptized, and he died on July 28th and now is with his Savior in heaven.

Just as Charlie’s parents were desperate to save their child, this official was desperate to save his. He walked 20 miles from Capernaum to Cana just to get Jesus to come heal his son. Even still this father did not know that Jesus could heal his son with just a word. The man wants Jesus to come with him so that he can see his son healed. But instead of going with him, Jesus says some tough words. And these words are not only directed at the father, but to all the Galileans, and even to us. Jesus says, “Unless all of you see signs and wonders you all will not believe” (John 4:48). It is as if Jesus is saying, “Unless you all see signs and wonders you will not believe that I am the God who spoke the cosmos into existence, and just by my word I can even bring you to strong faith in me.”

Too often we demand a sign from God thinking that by seeing a sign we will believe. But as we see in Luke 16 Jesus says, “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.” Faith comes by the word of Jesus and not by signs or wonders. If we see a sign or wonder, especially as modern people, we would probably go seek psychological help rather than believing what we see. Seeing wonders and signs is not believing, but, on the contrary, by believing we see the work that Christ does in our lives.

We all desire more than just a word from Jesus because of our sinful nature. We think that the Scriptures which tell us the Gospel of Christ crucified for you for the forgiveness of sins is not enough. We desire to see things happen. We desire to see signs and wonders. We want proof before we go all in. We think that a miracle will bring us greater faith because we can actually see God working. Nothing else will do for our sinful flesh. But no one comes to faith in Jesus because they see a miracle. Jesus, when he was here on earth, performed many miracles in the presence of many people, and yet many still did not believe. We see this later in John’s Gospel when the crowds follow Jesus because he fed five thousand people with just five barley loaves and two fish. These people followed him because they desired food for their stomach, not because they believe that he is the Savior and the one who can provide the bread of life. A miracle does not produce faith, but we seek after miracles. We seek after signs and wonders because we think that somehow “seeing is believing.” In our sin we tell ourselves that if Jesus would come to me in a vision I would believe that he is the Christ, my Savior. I would believe the creation account, if I could see it happen. I would believe the Scriptures if I could see the miracles told in them in person. If only Jesus would heal my child, I would believe. If only Jesus would perform a miracle in my family member’s life, then they would believe. God, the Gospel of your Son crucified for my sins is not enough for me, this time, I need to see some action. If only Jesus would be here, standing with me things would be different.

But Jesus does not give us signs and wonders to bring us to faith. Rather, he leaves us with His word. All the father gets in this account is the word of Jesus, and he believed it. The very word of Jesus produced faith in the man and somehow caused him to believe and go back home. What kind of word from Jesus causes such a saving faith that it sends a desperate father to go home trusting only Jesus’ word that his son lives? If you were in this situation would you go back home on just Jesus’ word? Wouldn’t you at least bring Jesus along just in case? The man leaves without receiving a sign that his son is healed. By receiving the word from Jesus, he received Jesus himself who is the Word. Jesus goes with the man, not in flesh and blood, but in His word that says, “Your son lives.” For the man and his family this is the saving Gospel that gives new life. The man leaves in faith knowing in full confidence that Jesus has healed his son because Jesus gave him His word, and that is all that he needs.

And on his way back, “Some of his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. 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” (John 4:51-52). That was the hour that Jesus said, “Your son lives.” The man asked which hour his son got better as if he was checking to see if it was the same hour he talked to Jesus. And it was the same hour that Jesus said, “Your son lives.” He can only recognize this sign because of faith. He can only see that Jesus was indeed the one who healed his son because of the word of Jesus. He can take the event of his son being healed in the light of Jesus’ declaration. It is because of his faith that the sign and wonder can be understood as Jesus’ work.

When we look back on the good and the bad stuff in our life of faith, we see the signs and wonders that God has done in our daily lives. But we can only see how God has worked in our life because we received His Gospel first. And we know that what has been done is in accordance with his will because we know the Scriptures. We see signs and wonders through faith in the word of Christ.

All we have is the Gospel of Jesus. He leaves us with the Scriptures. And because of this very word of God, we are brought to faith in Christ. It is through the Scriptures where we hear the great sign and wonder of the perfect work of Christ crucified for you forgiving all of your sins. It is through the word that we see Christ, the son of God the Father resurrected and living and giving you the hope of life and salvation after death. It is by Jesus’ word who tells the man, “Go, your son lives” and tells you, “You are my son in baptism.” Jesus tells you through the Scriptures that he will be with you always. It is through the word that we know that Christ is present in the Lord’s Supper where he strengthens and preserves your faith in him.

We have the greatest sign and wonder. Jesus has come into this world once and with his coming the world has seen the sign and wonder of his cross. The world has seen the sign and wonder of the empty tomb. But despite seeing these things, the vast majority of the world does not believe in Christ’s atonement. The world does not believe that he has conquered death, hell, and Satan even though the world has been told the story time and again for 2,000 years. Jesus is never going to do these signs and wonders again because it is finished. All we get until he comes again is His word. The promise that all your sins are forgiven. The promise of eternal life. The Holy Spirit works through the preached word to create faith in you. Through faith in the Word of Jesus, you go home today, tomorrow and on the last day in confidence that the promises of Christ are yours, just as confidently as the father went home to Capernaum to see his living son.

+ The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus +