Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Twentyfirst Sunday after Trinity

Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ, 

John:4:46: 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.47: 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. 48: Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. 49: The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. 50: 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. 51: And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. 52: 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. 53: 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. 54: This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee. 

Jesus had returned to Cana where he had turned the water into wine. Perhaps he intended to meet some people who had professed belief in him after this miracle. He is approached by an official, probably from Herod's court. His son had been sick and was now near to death. He continually begs Jesus to come and heal his son. The tense of the verb 'besought' implies a persistent action. 

Jesus reply seems almost cold, 48 Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. Jesus is referring to the general attitude of Galileans who would only profess belief if they saw miracles. Word would already have circulated about this new miracle worker, and Jesus did not want to be known as merely a faith healer or miracle worker. 

But perhaps there was more to it than this. Perhaps Jesus wanted to test or develop this official's trust in him. The official is genuinely distressed by Jesus' rebuff. 49 Sir, come down ere my child die. 

Jesus reply might, again, appear to be insensitive. 50 Go thy way; thy son liveth. 

Jesus created a dilemma of faith for the official. He had asked Jesus to come to heal his son. If the official had doubted he might have prejudiced his son's recovery. Yet if he left he had no outward assurance that his son would be healed. Should he insist upon some type of evidence and show disbelief, or should he leave, exercising faith without any tangible proof to encourage him ? 

50 And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. 

He learned to trust in Jesus because he had to. There was no other choice. He couldn't ask the audience or phone a friend ! 

He returns home, perhaps doubting that he has done the right thing. He sees his servants approaching, and he wonders 'Are they bringing good or bad news ?' 

The servants tell the official his son is better and that the boy recovered at the same moment that Jesus said the words, 'Go thy way; thy son liveth.' 

Coincidence, or the work of God ? 

While he was a missionary in Africa in 1968, William Pruitt had an unusual experience. After a long, exhausting day he returned to a little hideaway house he'd built years before. He was exhausted when he reached the house and turned in for a good night's sleep. 

The next morning he awoke and "thanked God for another day of life." He prayed that God would watch over him. Then he checked a small engine he had in the storage room. He hadn't been to the hideaway for some time and wanted to see if the engine was still there. In a corner of the storage room he saw something that looked like rope. It was black and coiled into a circle as though very carefully placed there. "I don't remember having a rope like that," he thought to himself. The next thing he knew he felt a spray of liquid on his face and in his eye. "It was as though a red-hot nail had been driven through my right eye," was how he described it. What he thought was a rope was a spitting cobra, one of the most poisonous of snakes. Frantically he splashed cold water onto his face. The pain was excruciating. 

Someone nearby heard his scream. Three persons he did not know came to his rescue. The first came and killed the snake. The second was a nurse. She was unsure how to treat him but then remembered a sample of an eye medication she had stuck in her bag. "I don't know anything about it," she said, "but it's all we have." Half a hour later the third stranger appeared, he was a French doctor. The doctor treated William and instructed him to get some rest. After a few hours the doctor was gone, and he never told them his name. As you can imagine it was a long day for William. Would he live? Would he have his eyesight? These were the questions he pondered that day. 

The next morning his eyesight was fully restored and so was his energy. In fact his eye wasn't even red. William offered a simple yet heartfelt prayer to God. "I thanked Him for all of those who had had part in my recovery...." 

Had William Pruitt been the object of an extraordinary series of coincidences? Is that how he was healed? William doesn't think so. Was it just a coincidence that a doctor and a nurse were in the area that day to offer their help? William firmly believes that God had a part in what took place that day twenty-five years ago. 

We know from this account that Jesus' efforts to elicit faith from the man were successful. 53 and himself believed, and his whole house. 

This is one of only two incidents where Jesus healed at a distance. The other is of a centurion who was commended by Jesus for having great faith. 

What can we take from this passage for ourselves today ? 

Jesus has power over sickness and the threat of death, even at a distance. We can be confident in him and the salvation he brings. 

When Jesus power is seen it is intended to elicit faith in him, not as an exercise in demonstrating his power. This is a reminder that Jesus wants our faith in him to grow, to rely on his promises rather than what we can see. 

We are called to exercise faith in Jesus , rather than in coincidences. When asked if he believed in coincidences one Christian commented that, when he prayed, coincidences happened ! 

Father Ed Bakker,
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province 
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne 

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