At Cana-in-Galilee, Jesus meets an officer in the royal service whose son is lying ill at Capernaum. The father has heard that Jesus is arrived from Judea. He comes to Jesus, begging that the Lord return to his home to cure his son, “who [is] at the point of death.” Jesus — exasperated — says to the father, “Will none of you ever believe without seeing signs and portents?” The royal officer only begs the more. Jesus tells him to return to his home where he will find that his son will live.
“The man believes what Jesus says and starts for home.” On his way, his servants meet him. They tell him, “Your boy is going to live.”
The father asks what time it was when his son started to recover. His servants say, “Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.” The father remembers that this was the exact time Jesus told him his son would live.
“He and all his household become believers.”
The father believes enough in Jesus to pay attention to His command to return home. But, it’s hard to imagine that on his walk back to Capernaum this worried father did not begin to doubt. Why didn’t Jesus come with him? Did this Jesus not care enough to make the journey? What if my son dies? What will I do then?
When his servants find him, I imagine they are over-joyed, excited to tell their master that his son is recovering — his fever has broken; he is not completely well at this point. The father accepts their assessment, but wants to confirm that Jesus is the direct cause of the wonderful result. He asks the time the fever broke; and only when the time matches the time when Jesus said that his son will live does the father truly believe in the Lord Jesus.
The final results are a healed child and the salvation of a household. “This is now the second sign which Jesus performs after coming down from Judea into Galilee.” (John 4:54) The first was changing water into wine.
Odd how we speak of man’s free will while denying God’s sovereignty in all matters. We don’t appear to have any difficulty accepting that God obviously preferred Abel’s sacrifice over Cain’s though both offered gifts of significance — after all, Cain appears to be just as sincere as Abel. The big difference is Abel’s sacrifice reflects Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice and the shedding of His blood for our sins. Cain’s offering represents mankind’s self-effort, the work of his hands. As such, no matter how good it appears, it is lacking and unacceptable to our God.
We don’t doubt God’s sovereignty in His choice of Abram and Sarai to become a great nation, or His selection of Joseph rather than his brothers or of Jacob rather than Esau — even before either one had done good or evil. And God chose Mary to be the vessel for His Son, Jesus. God even, most especially, chose Judas to betray Jesus with a kiss.
Paul deals with God’s sovereign choice especially well in his letter to the Roman church. Some are destined [not designed] to be vessels of God’s mercy while others show forth God’s wrath — the wrath which remains on them just as it is removed from others. All are born as vessels of wrath. These vessels of wrath show forth God’s great mercy which He has in store for those who are vessels of His mercy.
Many are called; few are chosen. This, I know, on the surface appears extremely unfair. But the reality is that once our DNA was altered by Adam and Eve’s sin, God just as easily could have abandoned us as a worthless project, a project gone wrong. Instead, He sent His Son into the world so that He might save it.
Paul, as the Jew Saul, has so much going for him; he has much “confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:4) Saul is circumcised on his eighth day; he belongs to Israel and is of the tribe of Benjamin; he obeys the law faultlessly; he is a Pharisee; and he claims to have much zeal, even vigorously persecuting the church. (Philippians 3:5-6)
Yet, he “considers everything a loss compared to the surprising greatness of knowing Christ Jesus” as Lord. Since even Paul is not able to put confidence in the flesh, then neither are we. He reminds that “all things” –even good things– are “considered rubbish” (Philippians 3:8) in contrast to knowing Jesus.
The righteousness “that comes from the law” is worthless, says Paul. Rather our “righteousness” must “come from God and is by faith.” (Philippians 3:9) Paul reiterates we are to “worship by the Spirit of God” and “put no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:3)
Paul says, “Whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.” (Philippians 3:7)
Often I think the Christian walk requires us to have a willingness to be taken advantage of by others — a meekness that would give the thief our shoes as well as the cloak he has stolen from us; a gentleness that would allow the bully to strike us a second time rather than hit him back.
Jesus is the Lamb of God quietly taken to slaughter — a slaughter resulting in our redemption. Jesus definitely allows Himself to be taken advantage of by others.
Jesus tells us, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them, without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High.” (Luke 6:35)
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.” (Luke 6:32) Rather, “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36)
We are called to be merciful to those who do not deserve our mercy, just as God is merciful to us — we who do not deserve His mercy. “For if [we] forgive men when they sin against [us], [our] Heavenly Father will also forgive [us]. But if [we] do not forgive men their sins, [our] Father will not forgive [our] sins.” (Matthew 6:14-15)
God the Father promises, “I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak.”
I love the truth of God searching for strays. It’s just like He’s outside in the dark with a flashlight looking around for anyone who is downright lost. Then there are those who are weak and injured. I can imagine Him — the great Physician — binding their wounds and bringing them home to rest in His care.
God says, “I will tend them in a good pasture. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I Myself will tend My sheep.” (Ezekiel 34:14-15)
God does not farm out His care.
“You are born again,” writes Peter. (1 Peter 1:23) “Conduct yourself in fear during the time of your temporary residence.” (1 Peter 1:17) After all, says Peter: you are a “living stone, being built into a spiritual house for a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5) “You are [part of] a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] possession.” (1 Peter 2:9) Therefore,”be holy, because [God is] holy.” (1 Peter 1:16)
Because you are a “stranger and temporary resident” of this earth,”rid yourself of all malice.” (1 Peter 2:11,1) “Love one another earnestly from a pure heart.” (1 Peter 1:22) “Be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13) Remember that “you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:3)
“Now for a short time you have had to struggle in various trials so that the genuineness of your faith — more valuable than gold, which perishes though refined by fire — may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. You love Him though you have not seen Him.” (1 Peter 1:6-8) Even in these various trials,”you are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:5) “Humble yourself, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7)
If you are able to see truth, then you can imagine the entire world in ruin; you are capable of seeing people destitute, lonely, hateful, spiteful, greedy, backward, ignorant, suspicious, flawed, angry, lost. This is not hard to do — to imagine the entire world in ruin.
What might be more difficult is to believe God when He, just as truthfully, says, “Be joyful, rejoice together, you ruins of Jerusalem! For the Lord has comforted His people; He has redeemed Jerusalem.” It might be hard to imagine that “the Lord has displayed His holy arm in the sight of all the nations; all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.”
God says, “I — I Am the One who comforts you. Who are you that you should fear man who dies, or a son of man who is given up like grass?” (Isaiah 51:12) You may find it almost impossible to believe that “the prisoner is soon to be set free; he will not die and go to the Pit, and his food will not be lacking. For I Am the Lord your God who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar — His Name is Yahweh of Hosts. I have put My Words in your mouth, and covered you in the shadow of My hand, in order to plant the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, ‘You are My people.'” (Isaiah 51:14-16)
“[God’s] invisible attributes, that is to say His everlasting power and deity, have been visible, ever since the world began, to the eye of reason, in the things He has made.” Therefore, maintains Paul, people are without excuse. People deliberately choose to ignore the obvious evidence for the existence and preeminence of God, and worship created things instead — things which include animals, spirits and even their very selves.
Paul also contends that “[we] therefore have no defence — [we] who sit in judgment , whoever [we] may be — for in judging [our] fellow-man [we] condemn [ourselves], since [we], the judges, are equally guilty.” (Romans 2:1)
Remember, “there is no just man, not one; no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have swerved aside, all alike have become debased; there is no one to show kindness; no, not one.” (Romans 3:10-12)
The extraordinary news — the very good news — is that “quite independently of the law, God’s justice has been brought to light. The Law and the prophets bear witness to it: it is God’s way of righting wrong, effective through faith in Christ for all who have such faith — all, without distinction. For all alike have sinned, and are deprived of the divine splendour, and all are justified by God’s free grace alone, through His act of liberation in the person of Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:21-25) Amen. Hallelujah.
Jesus promises that His sheep listen to His voice and follow after Him because He knows them. He says that he “gives them eternal life and they never perish; no one [is able to] snatch them from [His] care.” God the Father who is “greater than all” gives Jesus the sheep “and no one can snatch them out of the Father’s care.” Then Jesus reminds us that He and His Father are One.
Jesus tells the Jews to believe Him because His deeds show that the Father is in Him and He is in the Father. (John 10:37-38) The author of Hebrews tells us that “faith gives substance to our hopes, and makes us certain of realities we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1)
Our reality is that our salvation is secure — God is more powerful than anything in the universe, and He is able to sustain us. Paul writes that he is convinced that “nothing in death or life, in the realm of spirits or superhuman powers, in the world as it is or the world as it shall be, in the forces of the universe, in heights or depths — nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)
Jesus promises the same blessed assurance. Therefore, the hymn: “This is my story; this is my song — praising my Savior all the day long. Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine. Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine. Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood. This is my story; this is my song!”
“All will be brought to life in Christ,” writes Paul. “But each in his own proper place.” (1 Corinthians 15:23) “Christ was raised to life — the firstfruits of the harvest of the dead.” (1 Corinthians 15:20) Later, “at His coming, those who belong to Christ” will be raised. And at the end of time, all will rise to stand at the judgment where God the Father will “abolish every kind of domination, authority, and power.” And, then — finally — He will “put all enemies under His feet; and the last enemy to be abolished is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:25,26)
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, stand firm and immovable, and work for the Lord always, work without limit, since you know that in the Lord your labour cannot be lost.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)