Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
In our text for today, we are in the first part of the public ministry of Jesus. Our Lord had returned from Samaria to Galilee, the province in which Nazareth was located, the village of his boyhood. Jesus' first stop in Galilee was Cana, where he had performed his first miracle, almost a year before. While still in this small town, Jesus received a visitor from Capernaum, an officer of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee. This officer had heard that Jesus had returned from Judea, and he immediately set out for Cana, where he went to where Jesus was and begged him to come down from the mountainous section, where Cana was located, to the lowlands of the Sea of Galilee, where Capernaum is located. At that time there were no hospitals, specialized doctors, X-ray machines, vaccinations or other modern medical techniques, and a serious illness almost always ended in death.
The Lord gave the man an answer that deliberately sounded harsh: If you don't see signs and wonders, you won't believe. This implies that, although miracles can help lead a person to have faith in Jesus, by themselves they are not enough. If faith is based solely on evidence of outside help, signs and wonders, it does not have a solid foundation. If a person wants to believe only because of the signs and refuses to believe if there is no evidence of a miracle. If a Christian says: Unless God helps me with my current problem, I will not believe, it proves that his supposed faith is superficial.
In this case, the nobleman received the rebuke of Christ's words with meekness, but he was not discouraged from his purpose. He repeated his prayer for the Lord to come down so that his son would not die in the meantime. But Jesus, in recognition of a faith that, though weak, commanded the father to return to Capernaum with the words, his son lives.
And now the man believed the word of Jesus. That is always a true advance in faith, when a person believes only in the Word of God, even if there is not the slightest evidence of the fulfillment of the promises.
The officer no longer came home that night. But early the next morning some of his servants greeted him with the joyous news that his son was alive and well. The careful official now insisted on finding out the exact time when the disease had remitted his son and left him well. Then the father knew that it was at the same time that Jesus told him: Your son lives.
Then he experienced the truth of Christ's words, discovered that God keeps his promises. And therefore he himself was confirmed in his faith, greatly strengthened. And his family and his servants, to whom he brought the glorious news of the way of the healing, rejoiced and believed with him. Thus the nobleman's faith progressed from weakness to strength, from confidence in the external. visible evidence of believing in the Word alone, as is the worldwide form of faith.
The Greek word for "faith" is pistis. It is derived from the word peitho, which means to persuade or convince and also the state of being persuaded or convinced. The word pistis implies more than an intellectual assent; it includes the effect that such conviction has on the heart, namely, confidence and trust. This faith does not have its power because of our emotions, nor does it arise from within us. Contrary to the teaching of some, anything is possible, not if we have enough faith, but if the object of faith is that he can do all things. But if the object of faith is God, even a weak faith is enough to move mountains.
True faith is the work of the Holy Spirit. As Luther says in the Small Catechism, by our own reason and strength, we cannot draw near to Christ and believe in Him. The Holy Spirit must call us the medium of the Gospel, enlighten us through it and ignite faith in our hearts. In his Larger Catechism, Luther says: "Neither you nor I could know anything about Christ, or believe in him as our Lord, unless they were first offered to us and given to our hearts through the preaching of the Gospel by him. Holy Spirit."
The Holy Spirit is active in preaching, also in the sacraments, because in the sacraments the visible elements are linked to the Word of God, which is the Gospel. In the New Testament, the miracles or signs of Jesus were always accompanied by the Word, "Your faith has been saved, get up!"
The Lord provides us with the evidence to strengthen our faith if necessary. However, mature faith trusts only in the Word, because the things that Christians expect on the basis of God's promises are real enough and substantial in themselves, but they are in the future, faith extends to the future, understands them, possesses them, and makes us feel as sure of them as though we had actually experienced them. In this, we have the peace that passes all understanding. Amen.
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