Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity (John 4:46-54)

Bethlehem Lutheran & Bethel Lutheran Church, Lebanon & Sweet Home, OR

Twenty-first Sunday after Trinity + October 20, 2018

Text: John 4:46-54

God created His world good in six days.  It was not just a snow globe to be kept on the shelf, but it was made to sustain and provide for life on earth.  Our planet, placed in perfect distance from the sun, with an atmosphere and ecosystem that are self-sustaining and able to bounce back even from adverse conditions.  What a wondrous place earth is, and what an amazing thing life is here.  Our human observation can only scratch at the surface of God’s creation with the disciplines for studying the stars, makeup of the earth, animal life, and the human body.

But who is able to understand what has happened to God’s good creation since Genesis 1 and 2?

46And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 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.”

Why are there eyes that do not see, bodies that do not form right in the womb, wasting disease that overcomes internal organs, etc.?  Why was this official’s son ill, and why when he says “ill” do we have an endless list of maladies that could have brought him to the point of death?

The Epistle reading from Ephesians 6:10-17 exposes what happened to God’s good creation.  The Evil One, Satan happened to it.  Within God’s beautifully-created world, and likely without delay, the devil tempted Eve and Adam and brought sin and death into this creation.

In a sense, we are collateral damage in Satan’s prideful war against God.  The most potent way for Lucifer to get back at the God against whom he rebelled was to go after the crown of God’s creation—man.

But God is not bested by a fallen angel, either in the Garden of Eden or in Capernaum.

48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.

The war is now waged within human hearts.  Satan attacks to destroy any true hope in God.  He would rather hold our hearts in slavery, captive by the fear of death and an aversion toward the true God.  Within the heart, he arouses demands that the Almighty bow down to our command: Unless you show me a sign, I refuse to believe. Unless you change to meet my criteria, I cannot have you as my Lord.  Unless you make my life the way I want it, I won’t trust in you.  Lord, if you don’t do this my way, all will be lost.

Although it’s a battle between God and the Devil, we are on the front lines, and our salvation is on the line.  Certainly we witness the consequences of sin and death, but we can become a much greater tragedy if Satan has his way with our heart.  And we are not left defenseless:

 “14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:14-17)

We are equipped by our Lord for the spiritual fight against the Devil, the world, and our own weak, sinful flesh.  With temptations to lies, self-righteousness, guilt, and doubt Satan wages war against our souls.  The Lord, therefore, arms us against these through His Word and the Sacraments, the Means of Grace.

See this at work in the official coming to Jesus about his son.  He came in deep distress to be sure, but only a vague knowledge that Jesus might be able to heal his son.  With His Word, Jesus exposed the lies that were at work within his heart—don’t rest your faith seeing a miracle or in circumstances turning in your favor.  Jesus sends him away and simply says, “Your son lives.”[1]  Let your peace come from the Word of God, and the official left believing that Word.

51 As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. 52 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.” 53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son [lives].” And he himself believed, and all his household.

So by the end, the most important thing wasn’t that his son was healed, but that He believed the Word of Jesus in spite of the Evil One’s schemes.  Whether his son was alive or dead, the official and his household were adorned with salvation.

So how can you be similarly equipped?  By being immersed in the Means of Grace.  Come to worship often and hear the Word spoken, preached, and sung.  Make Bible study a priority over sleeping in or other things.  Remembering your Baptism every morning and throughout the day as you are met with your own failings and lose sight of God’s calling to you.

Here in today’s service, you are being adorned with the Armor of God: In confessing your sins and receiving the absolution, you are fitted with the breastplate of Christ’s righteousness.  In hearing the Word throughout the service—and believing it—you have the belt of truth.  At the end of the Divine Service when you are sent out with the Benediction, you walk out readied by the Gospel of peace.  But since this is only one hour out of the week, do not neglect the shield of faith, no matter what the circumstance, whether good or poor health, riches or poverty, ease or turmoil, because the Evil One has you in his sights and if your faith fails, any of circumstance can become a trap.

God’s creation has become a battlefield, but one where He has won the war against all the powers of darkness.  He has purchased and won you from the devil and given you His Spirit so that you believe Him at His Word.  Go from this place at His Word.  You will live because He has said: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26) And it will surely be. Amen.

[1] The English translations make a future out of it, but the Greek is present tense.