TEXT: JOHN 4:46-54; EPH. 6:10-17; GEN. 1:1-2:3
AT THE POINT OF DEATH – JESUS’ WORD GIVES LIFE!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


To the saints who are at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph.1:1, 2)


It is difficult to overstate the love of parents for a child!  Consider King David and his son Absalom.  David forgave His son after the murder of Amnon – and in time welcomed him back to Jerusalem.  Absalom later repaid that kindness by conspiring to take his father’s throne.  When his son rebelled, David had to flee for his life.  Absalom publicly denigrated and shamed his father and came against David’s men in battle seeking his father’s death.  Yet what most rings in our ears today concerning this father and son relationship is David’s lament.  When Absalom himself was killed David cried “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom!  Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”


It is difficult to overstate the love of parents for children – some 10,000 of whom (in age from one to nine years) die each year in our country.  The anxiety and grief and even guilt such loss brings to parents is sobering.  Death itself is an enemy that brings suffering and sorrow.  But the death of a little one even more!  The parent-child affection – the desire to provide and protect – the cutting short of expected life has pierced parents of every generation.  In parental love, mothers have delayed treatment for cancer and faced death in order to save the life of their unborn child.  Fathers and mothers in sleepless nights have searched out every avenue of healing help for a child with a medical emergency or a life-threatening disease.  It is difficult to overstate the love of parents for a child. 

21ST SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY – NOVEMBER 9, 2014
TEXT: JOHN 4:46-54; EPH. 6:10-17; GEN. 1:1-2:3
AT THE POINT OF DEATH – JESUS’ WORD GIVES LIFE!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


To the saints who are at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Eph.1:1, 2)


It is difficult to overstate the love of parents for a child!  Consider King David and his son Absalom.  David forgave His son after the murder of Amnon – and in time welcomed him back to Jerusalem.  Absalom later repaid that kindness by conspiring to take his father’s throne.  When his son rebelled, David had to flee for his life.  Absalom publicly denigrated and shamed his father and came against David’s men in battle seeking his father’s death.  Yet what most rings in our ears today concerning this father and son relationship is David’s lament.  When Absalom himself was killed David cried “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom!  Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”


It is difficult to overstate the love of parents for children – some 10,000 of whom (in age from one to nine years) die each year in our country.  The anxiety and grief and even guilt such loss brings to parents is sobering.  Death itself is an enemy that brings suffering and sorrow.  But the death of a little one even more!  The parent-child affection – the desire to provide and protect – the cutting short of expected life has pierced parents of every generation.  In parental love, mothers have delayed treatment for cancer and faced death in order to save the life of their unborn child.  Fathers and mothers in sleepless nights have searched out every avenue of healing help for a child with a medical emergency or a life-threatening disease.  It is difficult to overstate the love of parents for a child.


At Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill.  When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.  This was a man of wealth!  This was a man who had servants.  His title implied being a court official and many conclude that he served King Herod Antipas ruler of Galilee.  He was accustomed to having people respond quickly and favorably to his requests.  He asked Jesus to come down and heal his son who was at the point of death.  Instead of assent he hears a rebuke.  He came in fatherly love for his son.  He came in faith that this man of Cana, this compassionate miracle worker could help him.  He came knowing that the palaces and princes and political pomp of King Herod held no healing word for a child – at the point of death.  The words that fell on his ears, however, were not easy to hear.  Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 


The pronoun Jesus used is plural – meaning “you all” or “you people.”  Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.  Some of the Galileans were habitually at Passover at which feast Jesus had recently cleansed the Temple.  They were aware of His bold actions at the feast.  He was welcomed somewhat as a celebrity but not honored as a prophet (John 2:23-24; 4:43-45).  They were curious but they did not hold His word and promises in trust.  Knowing they were wowed by works and not His word Jesus responds with a rebuke.  Simultaneously it invites them to listen to Him.  Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.


The Father whose son is at the point of death is not deterred.  His faith is strong because it is weak.  He does not have the tools to combat the fever that is killing his son.  He does not have the answers as death approaches and He knows it.  He does believe Jesus has power over illness.  He lays his desperate cry at the feet of the right person.  “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 


Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.”  The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.  As he was going down, 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.  The father knew that this was the hour Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.”  And he himself believed, and all his household.   


Two miracles take place at the word of Him who at the beginning said “Let there be light,” and there was light.  He who is the light of the world now brings His light into this dark battlefield – in the flesh.  Jesus’ power over nature had already been seen right here at Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine.  Luther also surmised that since Jesus began his Galilean ministry at Capernaum – this man may well have heard Jesus preach (Matt. 4:13).  This official had some knowledge of Jesus.  Carried away by love for his son, he journeyed some 20 miles from Capernaum to Cana and now prayed “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 


“Go, your son lives,” Jesus said and life is given to a boy as good as dead.  Having reached the very gates of death – at the seventh hour the fever left him.  It is no small miracle for the Word made flesh to brush back physical death by the power of His word.  But an even greater miracle occurs as Jesus speaks.  “Go, your son lives.”  The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went his way. 


The nobleman took Jesus at His word.  He receives faith independent of signs!  He came in faith seeking help from Jesus and he left as one whom Jesus found and in whom Jesus worked.  Jesus gave him no sign – only His bare word.  The man went on his way on the basis of that word.  His faith was in the word from Jesus’ lips as he journeyed back toward the son he had left near death.   He would not see the healing until the next day.  He could not yet feel his son’s embrace.  He could only journey in trust that what Jesus said was true.


Dear Christians – that is our present status – on our way – not seeing all we hope to see – not feeling the fullness we hope to feel.  What we have is Jesus’ word on our standing with God and on our final outcome.  Now is the time of Word and faith.


Sinners that we are – this walk of faith is not always treasured by us!  We may ask God for signs – in our thoughts if not in words.  We may have some noble expectations about our earthly lot!  I want this ongoing pain or weakness or loneliness removed so I can really know God loves me.  If God is truly merciful – I don’t ever want to be a burden to family or friends.  Death is no respecter of persons, but God’s care for me would be crystal clear if I could just die in my sleep without suffering.  The truth is – we don’t care for the substance of Luther’s hymn and prayer – From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee, in trial and tribulation.  We would prefer to deal with God from the heights of wellbeing!  The truth is – we would like our hope to rest on more than His faithful word as our comfort and trust.  Left to ourselves, Jesus’ words hit home – “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 


That’s why God has not left you to yourself!  Consider the word He connected with the waters of your baptism.  In effect, the risen Christ therein says to parents – “Your child lives” even as He commanded baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  There God called you into being as a child of faith even as He called creation into being.  He did it and He is faithful to His promise to you in this recreating gift.


His gift of faith to you is not a stranger to desperation.  In fact Christ Jesus comes for the helpless and the hopeless.  Those who are healthy have no need of a physician, but those who are sick…I came not to call the righteous but sinners (Matt. 9:12-13).  The medicine Christ bestows on you by His Word and at his Table is not for those who have arrived and are in control but for those who hunger and thirst for His righteousness. 


So, if you heart reveals a record of wanting a Jesus whom you have dominion over – “give me this” – “spare me that” – “keep this from my child” – do not lose heart.  If your conscience whispers or even shouts that you too easily go along your way anxious and coveting rather than thankful and trusting – do not cringe in fearful hiding.   Fellow redeemed, the truth is that we are always at the point of death and that Jesus must continually renew our life by His word.   

 

That’s why He who on the sixth day said “Let us make man in our image,”– came down as true man in these last days.  That’s why He who on the third day said, “let the earth sprout vegetation…fruit trees bearing fruit…” rose from death on the third day.  The fruit that He brings to you now sprouts from what he accomplished on a dead tree – the tree of the cross.  The fruit that Jesus brings to you from what He finished there is forgiving, life-giving fruit in water and word and bread and wine!  You have His word on it!  “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:54).


It is difficult to overstate the love of a parent for a child – and yet that love is always imperfect!  Consider the perfect love between God the Father and God the Son – and therefore the un-measureable, merciful, steadfast love of God the Father for you in giving His only Son under your death and under the damning punishment for your sin.  Whereas David’s cry was – “Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son…!” God the Father’s will was that His beloved Son die under the weight of your sin – instead of you.  You have His word on it!  “Whoever believes in Him will have eternal life (John 3:16).


Death is therefore not what it seems!  We are always at the point of death in this troubled world (as are our children) – but even here stands the Word of Christ!  On the Last Day, “all in the tombs will hear his voice and come out” (John 5:28-29).  He will bid you rise and no grave, no worm, no rock, no centuries of decay can prevent it.  You have His word on it!   “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live…” (John 11:25).  “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.  He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).


That’s the very basis for continuing on your way in the faith!  Whatever Jesus says – “Your son lives”“Your sins are forgiven” – “Peace be with you,” Jesus does!  That’s also the basis for confessing Him – gently and with patient prayer – in our vocations.  The official who went on His way with only the bare word of Jesus received far more than his son’s physical healing.  The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.”  And he himself believed, and all his household.  God grant this to us all.  In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a