Wednesday, September 26, 2012

From Faith in a Word to Faith in THE WORD

"The nobleman saith unto Him,
Sir, come down ere my child die. 
Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth.
And the man believed the word that Jesus had
spoken unto him, and he went his way. 
And as he was now going down, his servants
met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. 
Then enquired he of them the hour
when he began to amend.
And they said unto him, Yesterday at the
seventh hour the fever left him. 
So the father knew that it was at the same hour,
in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth:
and himself believed, and his whole house. 
This is again the second miracle that Jesus did,
when He was come out of Judaea into Galilee." 
John 4:49-54

     It is interesting to note that even though Christ knew of the man's initial lack of faith in His position as the Messiah, He did not refuse to grant the pleading man's request.  The Lord sends no one away empty if they truly desire help.  He grants the nobleman's request with authority and says, "Go thy way; thy son liveth."  The verb liveth is a present continuous action.  A literal, translation would be, "Your son is living." Christ in His omnipotence had the ability to pronounce the baby living even as they stood there and spoke.  His power is immediate and supreme.  This immediate healing would also serve to lead the father to saving faith as we shall soon see.  The text says that the man believed "in the word" that Jesus spoke to him.  This initial belief was not in the person of Christ, but rather in His ability to heal the child (literally infant). 

     As the father makes his way back home, the servants bring the good news that only reaffirms what Christ already pronounced to be true.  They use the same words as Christ, "Thy son is living."  Upon further questioning, the father discovers that the child began to recover at the very moment that Jesus spoke the words, "Thy son liveth."  The text then says, "...and himself believed...."  At this point, the man's faith becomes very specific and personal.  There is great emphasis on the belief being personal as indicated by the word himself.  This man came to faith in Christ's position as Messiah.  It is humbling to note God's patience and condescension in this passage.  The Lord could have stopped with the statement, "Except ye see signs and wonders ye shall not believe," but He chose to grant the man's request and provide him with a sign that would lead him to a belief that brings healing to the soul.  The man's faith in Christ also lead to the belief of all in his house.  The man of the home can greatly influence his family for either good or evil.

   "This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when He was come out of Judaea into Galilee."  The miracles of our Savior were never for vain or foolish reasons.  They were always performed in perfect accord with the will of God for the purpose of bringing about belief in the person of Christ (J. 14:11).  Christ's tender mercies displayed here, led a lost nobleman from faith in a word of healing to faith in the person of the Healer.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Conditional Faith

"So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee,
where He made the water wine. And there was a
certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum.  
When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea
into Galilee, he went unto Him, and besought Him
that He would come down, and heal his son:
for he was at the point of death.  Then said Jesus
unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders,
ye will not believe." 
John 4:46-48

In Cana of Galilee Christ demonstrated once before His power over creation, and He is about to do it again.  The Scripture tells us that this nobleman or ruler was from Capernaum, the same city which demonstrated a hard heart on more that one occasion.  Initially, it would seem that this father did not believe in Christ as the Messiah, but desperation is evident in his actions.  God can use anything to drive a person to Christ.  It is a sad fact that often God has to bring severe trials into our lives in order to get our attention. 

The man entreated Christ to come and heal his boy.  Christ's reply was intended to provoke self-examination on the part of the ruler.  He says, "Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe."  The last part of this sentence will not believe is very strong.  It carries with it the idea of absolute impossibility.  Israel as a nation had become so hardened that belief outside of physical signs and wonders was an impossibility.  The Lord pronounced a blessing upon those who believe and yet have not seen (John 20:29).  Signs and wonders may be afforded an individual, but such things are not always a guarantee.  God is looking for the man, woman, or child who has a heart that is toward truth, whether or not a sign follows.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wise Men Receive Him

"Now after two days He departed thence,
and went into Galilee.  For Jesus Himself testified,
that a prophet hath no honour in his own country. 
Then when He was come into Galilee, the
Galilaeans received Him, having seen all the things
that He did at Jerusalem at the feast: for they also
went unto the feast." 
John 4:43-45

Christ heads north into Galilee after ministering to the Samaritans, but He bypasses "His own country (literally fatherland)" because of their unbelief.  Christ was raised in Nazareth but Capernaum is often referred to as "His country."  This is likely the place being spoken of here.  As a whole, Capernaum rejected the works of the Prophet who spent much of His ministry in their midst.  Jesus said, "...a prophet hath no honour in his own country."  All human beings are prone to such an attitude.  Familiarity, jealousy (Matt. 13:53-58), and physical prosperity can encourage rejection.  The Bible admonishes us to have a consistent desire for truth, all truth; "The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet (Proverbs 27:7)."

There were, however, some wise Galileans who decided to receive the works of Christ.  They also were at the Passover feast and had seen the works of Christ there; thus, in these verses we see an age old truth; there are those who gladly receive the works of God and there are those who reject.  Rejection comes at a price.  Christ said concerning the rejection of Capernaum, "And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.  But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee (Matthew 11:23-24)."  Let the wise of heart "receive Him."

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Ripe and Ready Harvest

"Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.  And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.  And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.  I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours.  And many of the Samaritans of that city believed on Him for the saying of the woman, which testified, He told me all that ever I did.  So when the Samaritans were come unto Him, they besought Him that He would tarry with them: and He abode there two days.  And many more believed because of His own word;  And said unto the woman, Now we believe, not because of thy saying: for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world."  John 4:35-42

   When quoting the first verse of this section, we must be cautious to quote it as a question, because Christ was asking His disciples a rhetorical question.  He expected a yes answer to His question.  In asking this, He was comparing their spiritual apathy for lost souls to a farmer who sits back and says "I still have four months, and then harvest will be here, no need to hurry right now!"  The disciples of Jesus cannot afford the luxury of such waiting.  The truth of the matter is, souls are all around waiting to be harvested for the Lord.  Christ said, "Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields...."  The word here for fields is literally country, region, or land.  No matter what dispensation a Christian finds themselves in, there is always a region waiting to be harvested for God.  The souls of this region were tender and ready to respond to truth, but the disciples were focused on other things.

    Christ now begins a lesson which we would all do well to heed.  He says, "And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.  And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and  another reapeth."  Some must sow the word of God and some must reap the fruits of those efforts.  Not everyone can sow and not everyone can reap.  It would be nice if seeds could be planted and a crop harvested the next day, but unfortunately, that is not the case.  Crops require time, water, heat, and food to grow.  It often takes many months before they are ready to be harvested.  The man who gives the gospel and does not see a response in the people is not necessarily any less spiritual than the man who preaches once and sees immediate results.  If both are walking with God, then the one sowing the word and one reaping the word are both in the will of God.  Let not the man sowing judge the man reaping, and let not the man reaping condemn the man sowing, but let Christ be glorified in all things as Paul states, "I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase." 
Christ goes on, "I sent you to reap that whereon ye bestowed no labour: other men laboured, and ye are entered into their labours."  The word for labor here has the idea of great toil or trouble.  Many Old Testament prophets had gone through great heartache and pain to prepare a people ready for the Lord.  Men like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Malachi (and many others) had seen little, if any, physical results of their prophesying.  For the most part, they were met only with rejection and severe persecution.  These disciples of Christ had entered into the labors of past men and were given the privilege of reaping the harvest with the holy gospel of God.  God's grace is manifold.  He gives grace to sow and He gives grace to reap.  None can lift themselves up in pride, but both the one sowing and the one reaping must fall before the feet of God and give Him glory.

   The passage finishes by showing us the precious harvest that was reaped that day in the hated town of Samaria.  Christ wants His disciples to get their eyes off of temporal things and focus on the abundant harvest that God has.  Some will be the sowers and some will be the reapers, but all who obey the call are in the will of God.  The rejected Samaritans were very grateful that God has a world-view concerning souls.  They recognized His desire to redeem all men and showed their perception by making this statement, "Now we believe...for we have heard Him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world (italics mine)."