RETURNING TO THE SCENE OF THE WINE
I want you to think about the one or two places that have meant a lot to you during your life. Places that evoke fond memories for you. Where would those places be and why?
When I think about a place that evokes fond memories for me, one of those would be Cape Cod, Massachusetts. That was where Judy and I honeymooned 31 years ago. Over the years we have traveled back there and spent many anniversaries there. Why? Because of the good memories of that time and those places we visited in April of 1988.
Another place that evokes memories for me is Staunton, VA. Now honestly the memories I have of Staunton are not all that fond for me. But they did help to mold and form me into the person I am today. It took me about 40 years to want to revisit there but over the past decade I have learned to appreciate those memories. The reason Staunton is on this list is because Judy and I have made new memories there together. We now visit Staunton at least once a year and every once in a while I will still show her the elementary school I went to and the house I lived in for a brief period of time. It has become one of the places that we like to visit again and again.
Now that you have had time to think of the places that have meant a lot to you over the years. Do you find yourself visiting those places over and over again? Maybe it is the same vacation spot every year. Maybe it’s the place you proposed to your wife and/or the place you said yes! Maybe it is the high school or college you graduated from. How many have every attended their high school class reunions or college alma mater homecomings? Sometimes it’s not the places but the people who shared those memories with you that you revisit.
Why do we tend to return to these places over and over again? In a January 10, 2018 article on the Huffington Post website entitled, “Travel Experts Explain Why People Return To the Same Places Again and Again”, it states there are certain reasons why we do return to these places. One, is emotional attachment. Two, is connection to local culture and community. Three, because the place has a rich history. Four is unique beauty. Five is amazing food. Six is family tradition and seven is the special treatment you receive there.
In our text today, John brings us full circle as we see that Jesus returns to the scene of the wine. If you remember in chapter 2, there is a wedding in Cana and Jesus, his mother and his disciples had been invited. This is where Jesus did his first miracle of turning water into wine. Now we’re back in Cana, and John is going to tell us about a second miracle that Jesus is going to do there. Jesus didn’t go back there because of emotional attachment or because of the special treatment he received there or even because of the amazing food. Jesus went back to Cana because that was his Father’s plan for him. A couple of weeks ago Jason showed us that Jesus as he traveled from Jerusalem to Galilee had to go through Samaria. Now we know that he had a choice to go around Samaria which is what Jewish people usually did but God had a divine appointment for his son to meet the woman at the well and a subsequent mission trip to share the Gospel with other Samaritans from her village. Jesus has always been guided by His Father’s will for his life and ministry.
Everything from John 2 all the way to the end of John 4, should be read as one big story, or one complete lesson. It’s grouped together, because John is showing and teaching us something about Jesus. First, there was the miracle of water turning to wine in chapter two, then in chapter three he tells us about the encounter with Nicodemus, and then in the first section of chapter 4 he tells us about the encounter with the woman at the well, and now back in Cana he will tell us about another miracle. All of these stories are intended to show us our need for Christ… they’re intended to show us that only He can satisfy our deepest longings and needs. He’s also given us different word pictures to describe how we can receive Him. In chapter three that we receive him by being born again. In chapter four we receive him as our “living water.” Now at the end of chapter 4, he is going to show us how that works and it’s by faith. We come to Christ by faith and trust in Him. And that’s what we are going to see in our text this morning.
Jesus is coming off a most successful mission trip in Samaria and now he is returning to Galilee. John is going to mention that a prophet has no honor in his hometown and then ironically he tells us that Jesus is welcomed in Galilee. But as we saw back in Jerusalem after the Passover, the people that were flocking to Jesus didn’t have a true faith. Their faith was based on signs and wonders and a kind of desperation to believe in something but not truly believe in someone. And John wants us to understand from our passage this morning that we need to move from a desperate faith to a saving faith in the person of Jesus Christ. That is our big idea this morning. If you are here this morning and your faith is built on only having fire insurance from Hell that is a desperate faith. That is not the faith that Jesus wants us to have. Our faith needs to be built upon the person of Jesus Christ and what he did on the cross for us and in having a personal relationship with him. Before we dive into our passage this morning, let’s pray:
Dear Holy God, We ask for the Holy Spirit to come down upon each one of us and open our hearts and minds to what you want us to learn. We confess our distractions to you and we ask that you take them away at this very moment so we can be fully engaged with you. We ask for understanding and clarity and trust that you will help us to glean something this morning from your Word that we can share with those you put in front of us this week. We thank you for how you love us and take care of us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Our passage this morning is found in John chapter 4, verses 43-54. I am going to start by reading verses 43-45 which will give us some background before we get to the main story. This is what God’s Word says, 43 After the two days he left for Galilee. 44 (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) 45 When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, for they also had been there.
The last we saw Jesus he had been talking to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well near Sychar. Jesus told her everything she ever did and she went and told her whole village about this man Jesus whom she believed was the Messiah. In chapter 4, verse 40, the Samaritans urged him to stay with them for two days and he did and many of them were saved. The last thing John records is them saying, . . . “we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” Talk about an awesome mission trip.
Last week we talked about the last two mission trips we as a church took, one to Mississippi a year ago and the other to Jamaica in June. In Mississippi we ministered to 32 children each for three days while doing a VBS with them and in Jamaica they ministered to over 1000 people that week.
Now we don’t know exactly how many were saved during those two trips but one important point was that we were called to go and be Jesus’ hands and feet and we were faithful to that. Jesus has been and always will be faithful to his Father and because of his faithfulness many Samaritans came to know him as their Lord and Savior. This is where our story picks up at this morning
After two days of preaching and teaching the Gospel to the Samaritans, Jesus leaves for Galilee. John interjects a statement from Jesus that “a prophet has no honor in his own country.” Maybe John threw that statement in because he wanted to temper our enthusiasm a little so we wouldn’t be expecting a huge soul winning campaign in Galilee. But why go there if he thought he may not get a warm welcome especially after the successful mission trip to Samaria? It was because Jesus was not driven by success but by his Father’s will. Jesus’ mission was to do the will of his Father which was to be the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.
Morris says, “He had come unto His own, not under a delusion that He would be welcomed, but knowing full well that He must expect a rejection. This would not take Him by surprise, for it was in the divine plan. So, to fulfil all this implies, He went to Galilee.”
As we continue to the next verse, we are expecting to hear about Jesus being rejected by the people in Galilee but ironically it says when he arrived there he was welcomed by them. John also says that these Galileans had been in Jerusalem and had seen what Jesus did at the Passover.
What are we to make of this? Well we need to look back to chapter 2, verses 23-25 which say this, 23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.
These were some of the same people who saw Jesus cleanse the temple during the Passover and perform signs while in Jerusalem. Do you notice what Jesus knew about them back then? He would not entrust himself to them because he knew what was really in their hearts. He knew receiving was not accepting. Sure, maybe they had a kind of faith, a hollow and shallow faith, in Jesus. But whatever faith they had was based on signs and wonders, based on the spectacular. They welcomed him merely as a miracle worker and Jesus knew that that was not enough. He wanted people to come into a personal relationship with him and that was the way to a saving faith. Yes, Jesus performed miracles and signs but they were to lead people to believe in Him for who He is, the Christ, the Son of God, so that they might have eternal life in His name. They weren’t meant to wow the people into only wanting more and more signs.
Jesus in Matthew 13, used the Parable of the Sower to explain to his followers and his disciples that there are different responses to the Gospel. He said that he was the sower and the seed is the Word of God, both his spoken Word and the Bible. The second ground Jesus talked about was the stony ground. The stony ground represented someone who showed an interest and awareness in the Gospel, yet their heart isn’t fully convicted so that when troubles come their faith is not strong enough to stand. This is what we see happening with the people here. They were believing in Jesus’ power but not the person of Jesus and their heart was not convicted of their sin and therefore didn’t feel the need to take their faith to the next step.
That reminds us of our big idea this morning that we need to move from a desperate faith to a saving faith in the person of Jesus Christ.
In verses 46-47 we are going to be introduced to a man who at first comes to Jesus because he had heard of the signs and wonders he has done. He exhibits a beginning faith, but his faith is a desperate faith because of the situation he finds himself in. This is what verses 46-47 says, 46 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.
Jesus returns to Cana where he turned water into wine. There is a certain royal official there who found himself in a desperate situation. The desperate situation was that his son was sick in Capernaum. In fact, we learn that the son was close to death and the father who had heard of what Jesus had done in Jerusalem comes to beg Jesus to heal his son. Carson says, “The royal official approaches Jesus out of desperation of need, but with little thought as to who Jesus is.” Who was this man? Some translations say “nobleman.” A nobleman was someone who worked for the king as part of his court. The king over the area of northern Galilee was Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great who tried to kill the baby Jesus. This royal official would have been someone of importance, influence and power. He was probably pretty wealthy and didn’t want for anything.
If we look at verse 47 in the New American Standard version it says he frantically implored him to come and heal his son. The imperfect tense of the verb “imploring” indicates he repeatedly begged Jesus to heal his son. But he didn’t try to convince Jesus that he was worthy of this miracle because he was a royal official or a man of means. He just persistently cried out to Jesus. He was desperate because his son was sick and dying and he comes to Jesus in the beginning at a sort of level one stage of faith.
We can see a real truth already here in the story and that is “tough times can turn us to Christ.” Would this royal official ever sought Jesus out if his son wasn’t dying? We don’t know for sure but probably in all honesty, he wouldn’t have. He has probably already had his son looked at by the best doctors in the area where he lived and his son is still dying. We see the man make a 20 mile journey from Capernaum, where his son was, to Cana. One source I read made an interesting observation. Since the royal official was part of Herod Antipas’ court he was probably from Tiberius where Herod had his headquarters. So, this is how desperate the man was to find Jesus and beg him to heal his son. He probably put his son in a boat at Tiberius, which is in the southwest end of the Sea of Galilee and took him to Capernaum 13 miles away to the north because that’s where he had heard that Jesus was hanging out. He doesn’t find Jesus in Capernaum because Jesus was now in Cana. But his son was so sick he probably had to leave him in Capernaum and travel the 20 miles on horseback to Cana. This royal official pulled out all the stops to help his son.
Now I believe all of us would do whatever it took to get a sick and dying love one the care they needed. Sometimes it takes tough times to turn us to Christ but our faith can’t stay there. God often graciously meets us at our point of crisis, but that’s just the beginning. He wants us to believe in and follow Him not only because He delivered us from our crisis, but also because He is the only Savior and Lord and is worthy of our trust. We need to move from a desperate faith to a saving faith in the person of Jesus Christ.
We as Christians need to examine ourselves. Are we like the royal official and wait to pray until we are in a crisis situation? Do we keep Jesus in a box or on the shelf and pull him out when we are in desperate straits and ask him to rescue us. Then when the crisis is averted do we put Him back on the shelf and get on with our lives virtually without Him? Jesus wants to be in a relationship with us and wants to be worshiped by us as Lord and Savior. He wants intimate fellowship with us at all times. He wants us to have a real life saving faith in him not just a desperate faith that seeks him when we are in a jam. That brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is to go beyond having a desperate faith to having a real life saving faith in Jesus.
Next, in verses 48-50 we see Jesus’ answer to the official and we see Jesus moving him to the next step of faith which is an obedient faith. Follow along with me as I read those verses: 48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” 49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed.”
Now this might seem a little rude and without compassion to us as we read it but we need to remember the scene. Jesus has just come into Galilee and the people are flocking to him hoping to see more miracles and signs. The royal official shows up and asks Jesus to heal his son. Jesus knew the royal official and the crowds were not seeking him because they wanted to worship Him or follow Him for who He is. The royal official wasn’t coming as a sinner seeking forgiveness. He wasn’t seeking Jesus because he wanted to know him as Messiah. He was desperate and needed immediate help. Jesus’ rebuke, which was directed at both the royal official and the crowd of Galileans, was a gracious rebuke intended to help the man see his greater need. Jesus wanted him to move from his desperate faith to a genuine saving faith. Jesus never rebukes us to hurt us, but always for our good, so that we might grow in faith and holiness.
We see the man didn’t take offense at Jesus’ rebuke but he was persistent that Jesus come and heal his son. Another thing we notice is that the man’s faith was quite limited. The royal official wanted Jesus to come with him. He had it fixed in his mind that Jesus had to accompany him back to Capernaum to heal his son. And Jesus could have done that but then this man’s faith wouldn’t have grown at all. Often, we have a preconceived idea of how God must work to solve our crisis. We want the answer now or we want to hear an audible voice from him. This man was a royal official, he was used to giving orders and commands and people did what he said. Jesus instead says to him, I’m going to give you a command and let’s see what you do with my authority.
Jesus puts the man in a curious dilemma: The man said, “Come!” but Jesus said, “Go; your son lives.” By doing this, Jesus forced the man to believe without a sign. Either he had to doubt the word of the One in whom he had placed all of his hopes for his son’s recovery, or he had to believe Him and go. Jesus very skillfully drew this man into a deeper level of faith, a faith in his promise or word. Jesus demanded that his faith be desperate enough to trust his word, not just his visible works. Jesus answered the man’s desire to heal his son, but not his request to come down to Capernaum.
The beautiful thing is that Jesus attaches a promise to his command. He commands the man to go to his son and promises that his son is alive. The man had to put aside his expectations of how Jesus would work and just take Him at His word. Jesus wanted to move him to the next step of faith which was having an obedient faith. The man takes Jesus at his word and departs. He is obedient. It is in obeying God’s commands and trusting his promises that true faith is expressed. Do we put expectations on God? Do we believe what he says in his word about the promises of His provision? If not maybe this next step is for you. My next step is to trust in God’s promises and seek to move to an obedient faith in Him.
In verses 51-53 we are going to see this man’s faith go from faith in a power, to faith in a promise, to having faith in a Person. We will see his faith come full circle from a beginner’s desperate faith to the saving faith in Jesus. (BIG IDEA) Follow along as I read verses 51-53, 51 “While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.” 53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed.
The man probably had to spend the night somewhere on his return journey. He probably didn’t travel that night because he would have been exhausted and because it would have been dangerous to do so. Imagine what it took to spend the night knowing that his son could be dead in the morning. He had to wait til the next day and travel the 20 miles back to Capernaum where his son was, with nothing to hold on to but Jesus’ promise.
The following day, as he was on the way home, his slaves met him with the wonderful news that his son was living. The man was no doubt overjoyed, but he wanted to make sure that this wasn’t just a coincidence. So he asked them at what hour did his son begin to get better. They replied, “Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.” Left is the same word that John used when the Samaritan woman left her water pot. It wasn’t just a slow, natural recovery. It happened instantly. The man knew that it was the same hour that Jesus had spoken the word, “Your son lives.” In verses 50-53, the word “alive” is repeated three times. Morris says, “We are told three times that the boy lives. John does not want us to miss the emphasis on life, that life that Jesus gives.”
Jesus only has to speak and the miracle is done. Just like Jesus never touches the water to turn it into wine, he doesn’t have to touch the official’s son to heal him. We see the royal official coming to understand who Jesus is and trusting him apart from solving his crisis. But it was a process all along. Faith is a living thing that grows and develops and Jesus was building his man’s faith one step at a time.
As a result, the man and his entire household believed in Jesus. The word “believe” in verse 53 speaks about believing in the person of Jesus Christ. So now the man fully believes in the Person, not just a power, not just the promise, but in the Person of Jesus. He has gone from the desperate faith of begging for Jesus to heal his son to the saving faith of being in a relationship with Jesus Christ that now extends to his whole household believing in Jesus.
John ends this passage and the chapter with verse 54 which says this, 54 This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee.” The royal official and his whole household believed because they saw the sign that Jesus did. Jesus did these signs in order to get people’s attention. The miracles were like calling cards to draw attention to who He was. He did them to give authority and credibility to His ministry. But the miracles were never done just for the sake of the fireworks they created. They weren’t done just to entertain the masses. If the miracles of Jesus didn’t cause people to believe in Him and desire to follow Him, then those miracles were essentially worthless. If those signs didn’t cause people to change their lives and believe in Jesus then they were without value.
Bringing people to faith and commitment were what the signs Jesus did were all about. The same thing should be true here at Idaville Church as well. If the songs we sing don’t cause people to see Jesus and want to follow Him, then they’re worthless. If the prayers we pray don’t cause people to see Jesus and want to follow Him then they lack value. If the sermons we preach don’t cause people to see Jesus and want to follow Him we may as well not get up here to begin with. Everything we do should always be focused on Jesus. Everything we sing, say or do should point people to Christ. That brings us to our last next step on the back of your communication card which is to focus my life on Jesus and make sure that everything I say and do points people to Him.
This morning I want to remind us of the purpose of John’s Gospel. Pastor Stuart told us about it in his first sermon on John and I want to read it to us again this morning. It’s found in John chapter 20, verses 30-31. This is what God’s Word says, 30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
I want to close with a story from Max Lucado:
There was a preacher who went to visit a dying man in the hospital. As the preacher entered the room, he noticed an empty chair beside the man’s bed. He asked the man if someone had just been by to visit. The old man smiled, “I place Jesus on that chair and I talk to Him.” The preacher was puzzled so the man explained. “Years ago a friend told me that prayer was as simple as talking to a good friend. So, every day, I pull up a chair, invite Jesus to sit and we have a good talk.” Some days later the daughter of this man told the preacher that her father had just died. She said “I left him in his room alone for a couple of hours. When I got back to the room, I found that he’d died. But I noticed the strangest thing. His head was resting, not on a pillow, but on an empty chair that was beside the bed.” Do you know what that old man had done? He was so in love with Jesus that he wanted his last moments to be resting in the lap of his savior. My prayer is that all of us will be so in love with Jesus that everything we say and do points people to Him.
As Gene and Roxie come to lead us in our closing hymn and the ushers prepare to collect the communication cards let’s pray:
Almighty and All-knowing God, We praise you for who you are. We thank you for taking us to a deeper faith in yourself. Help us to focus on you and to always point people to you. We thank you for your word that is alive. May we hide it in our hearts and share it with those who do not yet know you as their Lord and Savior. In Jesus’ name. Amen