Dr. William Dembski. He?s a professor at Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth, Texas. He is known as a Godly man…a conservative Christian scholar with a theology that is rock solid….Biblically-based. His name might be familiar because of his efforts while on the faculty of Baylor to dispute the THEORY of evolution with the scientific FACTS that support intelligent design. Dr. Dembski is married and has three children, two of whom are twins—and one of the twin boys, CJ, is severely autistic. CJ was in neonatal intensive care for ten days after he was born….and throughout those long days and nights Dr. Dembski experienced what I?m sure is an agonizingly helpless feeling. I?m referring to the feeling of a PARENT whose CHILD is very sick—and they don?t know what to do to help them.
As you know, Sue and I have three healthy grown children—so I can only imagine what it?s like to be told your child is severely autistic or that they have some horrible disease that will cause them a lifetime of suffering. I don?t know what it?s like to have a child who is dying. But I DO know that this helpless feeling—this kind of parental desperation—I DO know it can prompt a mom or dad to do ANYTHING if there is even a sliver of a chance to restore their little one to health. And—this is what Dr. Dembski did. Contrary to his theology…contrary to his reasoning and logic…contrary to everything he had taught and been taught…he took his little boy…drove 130 miles and went to a Todd Bentley healing service in Dallas.
In his mind, Dembski knew that God has the power to heal. He knew that God still will heal. But after years of prayers God wasn?t answering the way he wanted—so in his helpless desperation, he reached out to Bentley as the possible avenue of God?s healing. He did this even though he knew in his heart that respected Christian leaders have branded Bentley as a false prophet. You see, the thing that attracts so many people to Bentley, and other un-Biblical faith healers like him, is his promise that if you have enough faith God is OBLIGATED to heal you—which, like the rest of the message of the ?health and wealth gospel,? is of course contrary to the teaching?s of Scripture. God is God and we are not. He is not our ?genie? in a bottle to be manipulated by our will power.
Well, like so many other desperate people who have gone to Bentley, that night Dr. Dembski left disappointed. His wife had taken CJ who by then was 7-years-old and severely autistic…she had taken him forward for healing, but they were turned away after waiting for over an hour. Here are Dr. Dembski?s words, ?Our son was refused prayer twice because he didn?t look the part…and even those who ?looked the part? seemed to look no better after Bentley?s prayer. The exodus from the arena of people still bound in wheelchairs was poignant.?
The desperation of this daddy who knew better led him to go to a man who PLAYS on people?s desperation…a man who uses that desperation to take advantage of them…and get their money…and before you criticize Dembski remember, that?s the way parents are. We will go to any lengths to help our kids—especially us DADS. After all, first an foremost, we are ?doers.? One of our flaws is we aren?t real good at talking or processing feelings—but we are pretty good at DOING things…FIXING things. We LIKE to do that…we?re comfortable with that kind of thing so when we are faced with a situation we CAN?T fix, we feel helpless. And…out of our helplessness, we often become desperate. And when we become desperate, sometimes we try things that we know won?t work. But in all honesty, when we are helpless and desperate…sometimes we feel better doing ANYTHING than doing nothing.
I share this story, as told by Jim Drake, pastor of Brushfork Baptist Church in Abilene Texas (I am indebted to him for much of the content of this message), because in our text for today we are introduced to another father who faced a helpless situation. In the last part of John 4, we read about a daddy who had done everything in his power to help his little boy. Nothing had worked—but, like the rest of us dads, he was a ?fixer…? so he just had to do something…and in His grace God guided him to Jesus. Take your Bibles and turn to John 4. Follow along as I read verses 43-54—and while you are turning there let me remind you of the CONTEXT. Jesus has just had that famous conversation with the woman at the well of Sychar. We studied it last week.
After their conversation, she put her faith in Him as the Messiah and then she did something that was not typical for her. She ran into town—going right up to the people she had previously avoided with her ?heat-of-the day? trips to the town well. She told them, ?Come, see a Man Who told me everything I ever did. Could He be the Messiah?? Many of the Samaritans in Sychar came and put their faith in Jesus. They said to the woman, ?We no longer believe just because of what you said. Now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this Man really is the Savior of the world.? At the town people?s request, Jesus and His disciples stayed two more days in Sychar. I love what John says in verse 41, ?Because of Jesus? words, many more became believers!?
Okay—with that in mind, follow along as I read—beginning with verse 43.
43 – After the two days He left for Galilee.
44 – (Now Jesus Himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.)
45 – When He arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed Him. They had seen all that He had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there.
46 – Once more He visited Cana in Galilee, where He had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum.
47 – When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to Him and begged Him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.
48 – ?Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,? Jesus told him, ?you will never believe.?
49 – The royal official said, ?Sir, come down before my child dies.?
50 – Jesus replied,?You may go. Your son will live.? The man took Jesus at His word and departed.
51 – While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living.
52 – When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, ?The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.?
53 – Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, ?Your son will live.? So he and all his household believed.
54 – This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.
Okay—let?s go back now and FOCUS in more closely on what John describes in these 12 verses. The first thing I want you to note is John?s little editorial comment in verse 44—where he tells us about Jesus? prior warning about prophets having no honor in their country. I think John put this here to highlight the irony of the Jews? first REJECTION of Jesus…as opposed to the great SUCCESS Jesus had in verses 39-42 among their hated foes, the Samaritans. And, in my mind ANOTHER reason John did this was to let us know that even though the Galileans treated Jesus congenially when He arrived—perhaps because they felt proud of their hometown hero—even so John wanted us to know that the Lord kept their goodwill in perspective.
In any case, Jesus returned to Cana—perhaps to cultivate ?seeds? He had planted when He did His first miracle there…and as He did a certain ?royal official? came up to Him. This man had traveled the 18 miles—uphill all the way— from his home down in Capernaum—a six hour journey on foot—two hours by chariot…and as a royal OFFICIAL, I?m sure he RODE.
Speaking of that—the term ?official? is ?basilikos? in Greek and it referred to someone ASSOCIATED with royalty. The man was probably from the court of Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee and Perea but I doubt that he was actually a part of the royal family. It?s more likely that he was a Jew serving as an official in the royal court. In any case he was a man of influence, wealth, and privilege—a man who wielded significant authority. He was important. He was influential. When he spoke, people listened. But, you know, it doesn?t matter what kind of power and influence you have in this world. When something happens to your children you still feel helpless. And, as I inferred, helplessness wasn?t something this man was used to feeling—which I am sure ADDED to his feeling of desperation.
Because of his position in life—his clothing—his mode of transportation—we can be sure that his coming to see Jesus did not go unnoticed—PLUS his demeanor did not fit his station. His son lay dying in Capernaum and he was ?imploring? Jesus to come. The Greek word describes action that is either ongoing or repetitive. It tells us that in the urgency of his son?s severe illness, this official cast off any dignity and ?kept on begging? Jesus to come. So, this desperate father had to cross much more than 18 uphill MILES to get to Jesus. He had to make a ?social crossing? as well. He—a nobleman had to lower himself to beg for help from a humble village carpenter and itinerant preacher.
Here?s another thing I must point out. Since this man was an aristocratic Jew, it is likely that he was a member of the Sadducees—Jewish religious leaders who didn?t believe that God intervened in human affairs. They didn?t believe in miracles…so this desperate father had to cross ?religious miles? as well. But—the journey he made both literally and socially and religiously…it showed that first and foremost this man was a father…sick with worry over his dying son…a child he loved desperately.
We see his fatherly love in the words that are used for ?son.? There are three of them in our text. Toward the end of the passage in verse 51, when the servants come and give a report, they call him, ?pais.? That?s just a plain word for ?boy? that indicates they were familiar to him. It would be like if a friend asked you how your boy is. Then, when Jesus referred to the boy in verse 50, He called him ?huios? which means ?son.? It is a more proper term. It has more formality and dignity than calling him ?boy.? It?s as if I, as your pastor, asked how your SON is instead of how your BOY is. But the father didn?t use either one of those words. No—the father called him, ?paidion.? ?Paidion? is a term of affection and endearment. It has the feeling of calling him his ?little boy? but it?s not so much a reference to his size or age. It?s more like when we say a daughter is ?Daddy?s little girl? no matter how old she is. In short—this father obviously loved his ?little boy.?
So, you see, not only was this man an important and influential royal official, he was a daddy. And as that daddy he had knelt by his boy?s bedside and felt helpless. As the boy?s fever continued to rise and he moaned in pain, this daddy had tried to fix things but nothing he tried worked. I?m sure that he had mustered all his influence and resources to bring in the best docs money could buy. I?m sure he had tried every home remedy and potion known to man but nothing helped. His little boy?s fever only got higher. His pain only got worse as did this father?s feeling of helplessness. So just like Dr. Dembski, that nobleman got to the point where he had to do SOMETHING.
Well, he had heard all the reports about this Man—this Jesus—Who had been going around healing people and doing miracles. He?d heard about how He had caused quite a stir a few months back at a wedding in the area—changing water into wine—and as he reviewed all these reports he thought, ?There must be something TO all these things I?m hearing, because they really rolled out the red carpet when He returned to Cana. He left in obscurity but He?s come back famous.? I?m sure all of those things were going through that daddy?s mind as he sat by the bedside of his dying son…and there came this moment when he had to do something MORE than SIT there. He had to ?fix things.? So, one day he headed up the long, steep road that led from his home in Capernaum to Cana to see this miracle worker. It was mid morning but he knew if he hurried the horses he could be there shortly after noon.
Well—he could never have imagined what would happen when he arrived…because when that daddy came to Jesus, he came out of desperation. He didn?t come out of faith or even expectation. He just came out of desperation. But, as we just read, that?s now how the story ended. Jesus took him from desperation to salvation…and his son was healed to boot!
But I get ahead of myself—let?s put ourselves back in the story. The man made the trip from Capernaum as fast as he could drive those horses and when he gets to town he asks for directions, finds where Jesus is, and begs Him to go to Capernaum and heal his son. But Jesus? response in verse 48 seems a bit heartless. It?s almost as if Jesus doesn?t really care about PHYSICAL healing…as if it is secondary to His purpose…which of course it was. Remember—Jesus came to HEAL our souls from this disease called sin. He came—not to heal us for THIS life—but to heal us for all eternity.
But back to the story—Jesus responds to this dad?s request by saying, ?Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe.? And—before you think Jesus was insensitive to this desperate daddy, I must point out that the ?YOU? here is PLURAL so Jesus was talking to more than the nobleman. He was rebuking the attitude of the CROWD…the people who had no doubt followed along with the nobleman when he got to town with the expectation that they would get to see a miracle. They were interested only in the spectacular and not at all interested in what the spectacular miracles were a sign of. They just wanted to see a show.
Remember—when we began this series I told you that John doesn?t use the same word for ?miracles? that the other gospel writers use. No—John uses the word ?signs.? In fact, every time a SIGN is mentioned in the book of John, it points to the BELIEF of some—and the UNBELIEF of others. It highlights the fact that some people want the tricks that Jesus can do for them without wanting to have Him as their Lord and Master and Savior. That?s the attitude Jesus is confronting here. Jesus was saying, ?You people won?t believe in Who I am. All you want is to see signs and wonders…magic tricks. You want Me to fix your bodies up, but you don?t want Me to fix your heart. You want me to fill your stomachs, but you don?t want me to fill your life. You want to tell Me what to do instead of letting Me to sit on the throne of Your life.?
But—Jesus? rebuke of the crowd didn?t stop this father. Remember…he was desperate. His son was dying…so he pleaded with Jesus one more time. And when he did, Jesus said something that led this desperate dad to a crisis of faith. His response would not affect his son?s healing…Jesus had already taken care of that…but it would determine the eternal destiny of both this dad and his entire household. Jesus said this. He said, ?You may go. Your son will live.?
At this point the father had a choice. He could have doubted Jesus? promise that his son had been healed and stayed, continuing to pester Jesus to come down to Capernaum OR he could have made the RIGHT choice. He could have simply believed. He could have just taken Jesus at His word. He could have gone from the world?s caliber of ?faith?—what we would call a, ?Seeing is believing faith? — which is not really faith at all…or he could truly trust Jesus and do the opposite…He could simply believe—without seeing—and John tells us that?s what this desperate daddy did. I think he looked—REALLY looked into Jesus? all-powerful, all-loving eyes and he believed. Without seeing, he believed that, as Jesus promised, his sick little boy was now well.
Let me explain why I say I believe the dad took this second option. Remember—it was 18 miles back to his home…but it was downhill all the way. If this dad left immediately after his conversation with Jesus he could have easily been home by mid-afternoon—probably sooner—depending on when ?rush hour? is in Cana! And—he could have done that thinking, ?I have to SEE this before I?ll BELIEVE it. PLUS, this Jesus could be a fake like the others. If so, I want to be there when my son dies.? But that?s not what this father did. As John says, this dad took Jesus at His word. He believed and stayed in Capernaum perhaps to hear more of Jesus? teaching and then casually departed the next day. We know that because of the TIMING that John carefully includes in verse 52. Remember? The servants who met him on the road said the healing had occurred ?yesterday? so this man didn?t start out for home until the day after his encounter with Jesus…the day AFTER Jesus had said, ?You may go. Your son will live.?
This desperate dad BELIEVED without seeing—and in taking Jesus at His word—in embracing this caliber of faith he SAW so much more. He saw that Jesus was far more than a faith healer. This dad SAW that Jesus was Who He claimed to be—the Messiah—the Savior of the world.
This fearful father put His complete faith and trust in our Lord. He embraced the kind of faith that Paul talks about in Hebrews 11:1, where he says,?Faith is being SURE of what we hope for and certain of what we do NOT SEE.? And, the next day, when they heard what had happened, this royal official?s entire household put their faith in Jesus as well. They BELIEVED that Jesus was the Messiah…the Savior.
As you can see, this morning we are sharing the Lord?s Supper—and in a very real sense it is a symbol of OUR faith as Christ-followers—our BELIEVING and then SEEING. After all this is just bread. Anyone can see that. But as Christ-followers we BELIEVE it is a symbol of so much more. It represents something we can?t see: Jesus? body broken for us long ago. We look at the cup—and it?s just a cup—but we believe it is a reminder of His blood that was shed to wash away our sin on a Roman cross. This table represents the decision we have made to BELIEVE what cannot be seen—to believe what the Bible says is all true—that Jesus really is God?s only Son—Who came to earth and DIED in our place…but in that BELIEVING we have seen so much more…which is why this memorial meal is a CELEBRATION! If you are our guest and are a Christian, we invite you to share in this celebration. We invite you to commune with us at this table, because even if you are not a member of this church…If you are a Christian…if you are His, this is Yours.
THE ORDINANCE OF COMMUNION
The basic message of the Bible is God?s invitation for us to put our faith in His power and love…to BELIEVE and then SEE. Do you remember the words of Psalm 34:8 where David says, ?Taste and SEE…BELIEVE and SEE that the Lord is good. Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.? As we close, let me first speak to Christ-followers and ask: is there an area in your life where you need to do that—an area where you are desperate about something and what you need to do is BELIEVE God? It could have to do with your finances or your health or your marriage or your parenting or your career, but after our study this morning you realize that God is encouraging you to trust in His love and power and wisdom. He?s asking you to BELIEVE that He works in ALL things for your good. If that applies to you—then I challenge you to take God at His word. Put forth enough faith to trust that God loves you and is more than able to help you face whatever it is that makes you feel desperate. BELIEVE! If you do you will SEE once again that God is indeed good.
And—if you?re here this morning and you aren?t a Christ-follower—then I invite you to do what this dad did. You see, the truth of the matter is that without Christ, we are all sick—dying from a terminal disease known as SIN. Jesus came because that was the only way we could be healed. So, this morning decide to BELIEVE that Jesus is Who He says He is. Believe as our meal has symbolized—that Jesus died on the cross for your sins—ask Him to forgive you and commit to follow Him as Lord. John 3:16 says that whoever, ?BELIEVES in Jesus will not perish—but have everlasting life.? Will you take Jesus at His Word? As we stand and sing, come as God leads.
I wonder—is there someone present this morning who needs to do this? I mean, is anyone present who?s been trying to slake their thirst for God at the wrong wells? Listen, Revelation 22:17 says that right now Jesus says,?Come! Whoever is thirsty, let him come…whoever wishes let him take the free gift of the water of life.? And—if this describes you—then you aren?t here by chance. God has done something to get you in this Sanctuary at this exact moment. This is a Divine-ordained moment in your life! So, if you thirst for a personal relationship with God…then I urge you to accept Jesus? invitation and come! Quench your thirst! Receive this free gift.
Others present this morning may feel led by God to make other decisions….to join this church…or perhaps to simply ask God to help you be a Christian who is not OF the world but IN it….sharing your faith with the thirsty people who are within your realm of influence. As we stand and sing I invite you to come forward….walk the aisle and share any decision you wish to make public with me or one of the other pastors.