Nothing can shatter a parent more quickly or more completely than affliction falling upon their children. I can remember rushing to Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto with Julie because of complications with Rachel’s valve that connects to her heart. I can remember rushing Hannah to the hospital after her fall in the kitchen when she busted her two bottom front baby teeth out. I can remember rushing to Sick Kids in Winnipeg because Sarah’s opening in her skull was swelling up and the doctors were very concerned for her.
These are shattering moments for any parent! They’re moments that make you feel utterly helpless and desperate for someone to take your babies pain away. I know Julie has much stronger stomach when it comes to cuts, blood or needle, so I can’t image what my little Sarah was going though as they stuck this long needle to collect fluid out of her spine, to see what’s going on in her little body. BUT! I truly believe it’s those moments where God does His greatest work, not just in our children but in us. I believe it’s those moments where God reveals His grace and mercy, even if the results don’t end in our favour………Because not every situation of affliction has a fairy tale ending! I remember that when we rushed Julie to the hospital, to find out we lost the baby on the way into Winnipeg, when she was 9 weeks pregnant. One thing for sure is that tragedy will strikes all of us; young, old, poor and rich. This is something that is inescapable for everyone! But it has purpose and meaning that we may never understand this side of Heaven.
Job said it best! “For affliction does not come from the dust, Nor does trouble spring from the ground; Yet man is born to trouble, As the sparks fly upward. "But as for me, I would seek God, And to God I would commit my cause” Job 5:6-7. As an open fire causes sparks to fly upward, even so mankind is unavoidably consumed with trouble. Here we see a man who is faced with one of the greatest trials a parent could ever face. Death was knocking on this family’s door. Albert Schweitzer said, "The tragedy of life is what dies inside a man while he lives." I’m sure this was the heart of the nobleman when he looked at his son who was slowly dying before his very eyes and realizing there was nothing he could do to stop it. A father’s worst nightmare comes true as he watches his son die.
4 PRACTICAL LESSONS we learn for this encounter with Jesus and the Nobleman. This is His second miracle that John records for us, because it’s significant to Jesus' ministry that displays His power, supremacy and most of all His deity. The first lesson we learn about this encounter is……
AFFLICTIONS NEVER SHOW SPECIAL TREATMENT (v46)
“an Official (Nobleman) whose son was ill.” We read the Nobleman is in deep anguish over the fact his son is sick and is going to die. “Nobleman” is someone who is a Royal Official, someone who officially attached to the service of King Herod Antipas, a terrible and ruthless king. He would have been a man of great influence and power; he also would have been a man of great wealth. We learn a sobering truth this morning! All the prestige and money could not solve his problem and cannot solve ours any differently. These accolades don’t make us immune to trials and afflictions of this world. Especially when it comes to the matter of sickness and death.
Doesn’t the rain fall on the just and the unjust? According to the scriptures they do. “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matt 5:45
Take for example riches, power, fame, or rank:
didn’t help Steve Jobs
didn’t help Glen Campbell
didn’t help Gordie Howe
didn’t help Gregg Allman
didn’t help Jerry Lewis
didn’t help Andy Griffith
didn’t help Robin Williams
didn’t help Chester Bennington
We are to never think for a moment that our financial status protects us from affliction or possible death. The one thing it might do is it makes a person blind to our own spiritual condition. One Theologian said “It's a disease that's rampant in the culture and in the church. People are drowned with messages from powerbrokers, media, entertainment, TV evangelists and bestselling authors that say joy is intimately bound up in material prosperity, physical health, relational success and all the comforts and conveniences Western society provides. For most people, joy and suffering are incompatible. Thus preachers have a difficult task at hand in communicating to such a culture a genuine joy found in Christ.” The idea that the more money I have, the better my health will be! That understanding only leads to heartbreak and deep sorrow as we have seen before with the Rich Young ruler in Matthew 19. J C Ryle said “the dweller in palaces often sleep more uneasily that the dweller in cottages. Gold and silver can lift no man beyond the reach of trouble; they may shut 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. David was happier man when he kept his father’s sheep at Bethlehem, than when he dwelt as a King of Jerusalem, and governed the twelve tribes of Israel.” Afflictions affect us all! Rich, poor, young and old.
OUR LACK OF FAITH IS ALWAYS ACCOMPANIED BY DESPERATION (v47-v49)
“he went to Him and implored Him to come..” “Implore” means to ask, beseech, desire, entreat, pray. This passage gives the idea that he repeatedly begged Jesus to come with him. His approach was out of desperation and urgency, just like any parent would do in the same situation. Why? His son was going to die if Jesus didn’t come. This is something that every parent tries to block out or would rather not talk about! We have a tendency to shut our eyes to the plain facts, and act as if the young will never die. The idea “My child will never die before me.” Look throughout history there has been many sorrowful occasions due to the loss of a little one or young ones. Go to any cemetery and look at the names and dates on those marble slabs of cold stone.
Aaron lost two sons at once found in Leviticus 10
David a man after God’s own heart lived long enough to see three children buried.
Job lost all his children in one day.
What was Jesus’ response? “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” (v48) The man pours his heart out to Jesus and it seems that in return Jesus throws a cup of cold water in his face. But that’s not so! Jesus said “unless you people” this is plural, referred not only to the Nobleman but also the people of Galilee. What Jesus is doing is pointing out the weakness of the people’s faith. You always need to see the miracle in order to believe. The only reason you follow after Jesus is for Him to perform His miracles as some religious sideshow. It’s that idea “Hurry, Hurry don’t miss the latest miracle, so get your popcorn ready.” This was not a rebuke to the Nobleman but a beginning of grace in his life.
WHAT BENEFIT AFFLICTION CAN BRING TO THE SOUL (v50)
“go your way; your son lives” Sometimes pain and suffering play a greater purpose in the lives of those affected. Take for example: Jacob, when his sons told him his son was dead. “And they sent the robe of many colors and brought it to their father and said, "This we have found; please identify whether it is your son's robe or not." And he identified it and said, "It is my son's robe. A fierce animal has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces." Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. All his sons and all his daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted…..” Gen 37:32-35. Those who have endured such a horrific loss can certainly sympathize with what Jacob must have been going through.
Yet it is at times such as these that we are all reminded of the hope that we have in the Lord.
The greatest event in history when Jesus told His disciples He was leaving them. Jesus told his disciples he would soon leave them. As bad as it seemed, it was for the best. Jesus says “But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, 'Where are you going?' But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” John 16:5-7. Jesus also went on to say “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world." Affliction in this life always has a reason. Sometimes we may never understand or get an answer to why! But God knows what He is doing! One thing we see her in this passage is Jesus demonstrating sympathy and graciousness despite such faithless demands for miracles.
“Your son will live.”
Which in the end to serve to strengthen the Nobleman’s faith as he heads home. Why do I say that? He doesn’t argue, there is no pleading with Jesus or forcing Jesus to come with him. Remember he is a Kings official and he has certain kingly power. The Nobleman doesn’t once go and say “Now listen here, carpenter! This boy is royal blood.” No! Something radically was happening to this man as he turned and made the 15 mile journey home to his son in silence to the words of Christ. The man took Jesus at His word. A beautiful promise we can take out of afflictions is that it’s always for our good and for God’s glory! Again this encounter was another way of showing this helpless man that there is hope, but it only comes from believing in Christ alone. John MacArthur said “the Lord graciously performed the miracle, consequently drawing the official’s faith to a higher level. By healing his son physically, the Great Physician moved to heal the father spiritually". This man realized his blindness like the woman at the well was removed to see who Jesus really was! God incarnate deity! The Messiah, the Christ, the Saviour of the World. (v25, v42) All great encounters throughout the Lord Jesus’ ministry were to confirm this truth! God in the flesh! God came in the flesh and dwelt among us to show us His love for sinners who desperately needed to be saved.
All afflictions have a purpose in our lives whether you like it or not!
Affliction will either draw us closer to His sovereign arms or further away from His sovereign arms.
Affliction will either soften our hearts or harden our hearts.
Affliction will either grow us stronger in our faith or deteriorate our faith.
CHRIST’S WORD IS AS GOOD AS CHRIST’S PRESENCE (v51-v54)
“go your way; your son lives” What I find amazing here again is that we see no argument from the Nobleman! We see him do one thing! Believe the words that Jesus spoke to him. Amazing! This is something that we can take to the bank as we walk in this Christian life. Again not every situation turns out like this Nobleman and his family. In this case Jesus granted the healing, but refused to follow the nobleman home. The only thing the man was left with was Jesus’s words “Your son will live.” We see in God’s word that we can find great comfort in times of our own affliction. His word brings truth, joy, comfort and peace into our heart when we’re afflicted confused and desperate. It strengthens our weak and feeble faith at times to a stronger faith that endures as we see with this nobleman. Just like we feel when our children are in pain and there was nothing we can do about it. Seeking His face through prayer and His word for comfort in the stormy trials of life!
Passages like this one found in Isaiah [Turn to Isaiah 40] “Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness. Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows on them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, "My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God"? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:21-31
This is the same God who spoke to the nobleman and He is the same God who speaks to you and me today. Though we may not have the same outcome as this man in the physical you can be sure we can have this in the spiritual when we are lacking faith to see past our hurts. He is an everlasting God who is deeply in love with you and me.
All He asks of us is too simple believe in Him!
In those dark hours
In those lonely hours
In those struggling hours
In those desperate hours
In those good and the bad hours.
Why? Isaiah said it best “He does not faint or grow weary” This is the promise this father did as we see at the end of the story that John penned in (v53). A father’s worst nightmare was turn into a great opportunity to see and savor Christ and to grow deeper in the love with the one true KING. He did not complain that Jesus would not come with him. And amazingly, he simply left, and John says he away “believed.” From fear, uncertainty and doubt to a faith that believed. John Piper said “I’m inclined to think that in that moment of seeing Jesus speak so sovereignly in spite of his accusations, something awakened in the man. He saw something more than a miracle-worker.” It’s for our good and His glory that we go through afflictions because it helps us to see the gospel clearer. Jesus wasn’t some side show miracle worker so people could turn His abilities into idolatry. He did these things to point to His deity and that people would find salvation and grace through His words. This portion of John’s letter help us to see how much He truly loves you and me and it shows how our faith is strengthened though trails of life. As James said “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2-3. Obstacles in life are not in the way of God's glorious plan; they are part of God's glorious plan.
Wait for divine intervention. “Divine intervention” simply means entrusting God to do what only God can do. Turn to Him with all your cares and watch Him do a mighty work in your life, by strengthening your faith in Him alone. REMEMBER: He is the all-powerful, all- knowing, everywhere-present God. A dying boy healed with a word, over distance, at once. Such is the power of Jesus……”Grace and power. Mercy and might.”