John Lesson 13 - Crisis Faith . . . Confident Faith
We seem to be living in an era of great faith. We hear about it from sports figures, celebrities, politicians and talk show hosts. Everyone wants to talk about their faith. But what kind of faith are they talking about? And faith in WHAT? The answer might surprise you.
Crisis Faith…Confident Faith
We are currently in the Gospel by John, chapter 4. And what I want to do this morning is combine the last incident of chapter 4 with the first incident of chapter 5.
They both are related to physical healing and they both reveal the power of Christ and the subject of faith.
I also should say that from this time forward, the religious leaders will seek to kill Jesus Christ for the claim of deity that he has made.
John 4:43. And after the two days He went forth from there into Galilee. 44. For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country. 45. So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things that He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves also went to the feast. 46. He came therefore again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain royal official, whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47. When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him, and was requesting Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death.
I want to point out several things here before we go any further.
First of all, here is a nobleman of the court coming to a simple carpenter!
There isn't any doubt that for this man of high ranking, to come to a man who was considered by many to be nothing more than a deluded carpenter was an amazing thing.
In spite of the whisperings and the rumors and the insults, this prominent man came and pleaded to a poor, humble carpenter. Why?
Because this man was experiencing a crisis. And when you're experiencing a crisis, you will do just about anything.
There aren't many atheists in emergency rooms. You tend to here the name of God mentioned in intensive care units. Now, like most people who come to Christ only during a crises, there is a lack of understanding of what Christ can really do:
As with many who come with crisis faith, they have some erroneous thinking about what Jesus Christ can do;
This man made two mistakes:
1) he thought that if Jesus didn't come and the boy died, then it was too late for Jesus to help. Jesus won't address this issue but there is a second mistake that will be corrected:
2) he thought that Jesus would have to be physically present to heal his son
He doesn’t know that Jesus is master of space and time; his word can command things present and distant; he controls not only his present domain but he holds the universe together by his word.
The wonderful thing is that Jesus accepts people who come ignorantly and with their crisis faith.
If we were God and we saw people coming to us only out of crises, knowing that they may or may not dump us when it's all over, we would tell them to take a hike!
But not Jesus. He does however, challenge the man's motive and potentially discourage him from asking...48. Jesus therefore said to him, "Unless you (plural) people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe."
All the people, gathered around this scene were excited about some sensational experience - a nobleman's son from Herod's court, healed by the carpenter.
They want to see another miracle...on with the show. This was quite a rebuke. Now if the nobleman had become irritated and petulant - had he grown disgusted with Jesus' rebuke, and walked away, that would have ended it.
But what you discover here is that this man's faith, although brought to the surface by crisis, is actually genuine.
Notice his response 49. The royal official said to Him, "Sir, come down before my child dies."
The Greek word "Sir" was a title of respect and subordination - this royal official says in effect - "I know you're more than a humble carpenter - You are the one with authority!"
Notice as well the yearning heart of this man. Earlier the text informs us that he requested Jesus to heal his son...here in vs. 49. the word is changed from son to child. . ."little child". Please help my little boy.
Verse 50. Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your son lives."
That's it??!! Just the word of Christ - "He's healed, you can leave now."
But notice the issue of faith - 50. The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he started off. Can you believe that? Do you know that it will be this man whom the Lord alludes to later as having great faith! Why? Because he will believe the word of the Lord without seeing the immediate result. Later, in John 20 Jesus says to doubting Thomas, "Because you have seen me, you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed!"
Imagine having a special blessing because our faith not confirmed by sight! Imagine having a special blessing that even the apostles will never receive because we believe in Him whom we've never seen!
The principle of living by faith is this:
#1 Faith is believing without seeing
#2 Faith is obeying without feeling
Faith is walking into a dark room and knowing that at the right time, God will turn on the light!
Near the end of World War II, members of the Allied forces were often found searching farms and houses for snipers. At one abandoned house, which had been reduced to rubble, searchers found their way into the basement. There, on a crumbling wall, a victim of the Holocaust had scratched a Star of David. Beneath it was written the words, "I believe in the sun, even when it does not shine, I believe in God, even when He does not speak."
Now notice verse 51. And as he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living. 52. So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. They said therefore to him, "Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him."
53. So the father knew that is was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, "Your son lives". This man's confident faith is now exchanged for confirmed faith. 53b. And he himself believed, and his whole household.
This man's crisis faith became confident faith; he believed the Word and even delayed his trip home, so confident in the Master's promise. His confident faith was exchanged for confirmed faith when the servants arrived; upon returning home his confirmed faith became contagious faith - his entire family believed.
Imagine having a household now converted to following Christ - the family of a nobleman who served with high authority in Herod's court. He served under Herod Antipas - the son of Herod the Great. A father so cruel that he ordered the execution of children, two years and under in the town of Bethlehem because he and only he would own the title King of the Jews. Imagine a father so vain and cruel that he ordered 1200 prominent Jewish men to be executed as soon as he himself died of natural causes there would be an assurance of weeping in Palestine. Fortunately the plan was never carried out. Well, his son, Herod Antipas was the King under whom this nobleman served. Herod Antipas was the King who ordered the execution of John the Baptist. . .this wasn't exactly a good position to be in as a Christian!
If anybody had better shut up instead speak of - it was this nobleman; yet he spreads the news throughout his entire household which, in this day, would have included grown sons and daughters in law, or sons in law...and there was some incredible conversions taking place in this prominent home.
Faith is not only believing without seeing, and obeying without feeling, it is also;
#3 Courageous without restraint.
#4 Faith is contagious without restriction.
Now chapter five continues the same theme of Christ's power and the human exercising of faith - but this time we leave the wealthy nobleman and travel to the dredges of society where helpless people were abandoned, cast away and forgotten.
First, there is the man who has every possible medical help at his disposal - yet no one can help; then a man who has absolutely no medical help available - he is poverty stricken and alone.
However, in both situations, both men are helpless!
5:1. After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
2. Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate, a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes,
3. In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, waiting for the moving of the waters;
4. For an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted.
There was a time when critics of scripture argued against the validity of scripture because of this reference to a pool with 5 porches or roofs. Yet today, the archaeologists have excavated the very pool in question and have discovered with incredible detail the ruins of what this pool once was. Yes, near the sheep gate was a pool divided in half with a large roof and then with each side section of the pool being covered by two roofs or porticos each.
In the day of Christ, sick people gathered there believing that an angel intermittently stirred up the waters and that whenever this happened the next person to step into the water would be cured.
This place had become a place of collected human suffering - people attracted by a faint hope of being healed.
Now in the margin of your Bibles you may notice that verse four seems to be an explanation added after the Book of John was written. In other words, verse four was added later on as an attempt to explain verse seven where the man tells the Lord, "I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up..." All the evangelical scholars that I researched agreed that this was indeed an addition to scripture in order to explain verse 7.
However, what I personally believe about verse four is that the people of Christ's day did indeed believe an angel came to stir the waters and so from the 4th century on, it has been allowed to remain in the text.
However, you notice that Jesus completely ignores the man's comments about the stirring of the waters.
Now, just what's going on here at this pool?!
Thanks to the pagan archeologists who often uncover the truth but refuse to believe it, we now know where the pool was. It's name has emerged in the Dead Sea Scrolls. It's location is to this day clearly marked. Underneath this huge pool was a stream which evidently and periodically bubbled up and disturbed the water. The people, blind in their superstition believed that this was an angel and that the first person in the water was healed.
It was common in the days of Christ for people to believe that water was inhabited by spiritual forces, good and bad.
When the Persian king Xerxes came to the Stryomon river his magicians offered white horses as sacrifices to the gods of the river before his army dared to cross it. Lucullus, the Roman general, offered a bull to the River Euphrates before he crossed it. Even today, in south-east Africa some of the Bantu tribes believe that rivers are inhabited by evil spirits which must be satisfied with handfuls of corn before crossing it. In Central Africa they will not rescue a man carried away by a river because they believe that the spirits have taken him. So in Jesus day, their was the common superstition that this subterranean stream that fed these twin pools was inhabited by an angel who would periodically stir the water.
Here's the point - here's why I've taken time to answer the question about verse 4 even though no one asked me to - because I want you to see Jesus as He walks into an area that is huge - a twin pool with 5 different roof structures; filled with helpless people who are what????? A multitude of people who are exercising great faith in the wrong thing.
I've seen pictures of thousands of Indian worshipers bathing in the supposedly sacred, yet filthy water of the Ganges River in Calcutta, even though a mile or two up the river sewage was being dumped into the water.
Every commentator I researched this passed week made a spiritual point of this gathering of people. They all said, isn't this a picture of humanity - lost, weak, blind, helpless, placing their faith in any number of things - whether it's new age faith in crystals being able to emit spiritual energy; or faith in a Guru's teaching, or faith in the inherent goodness of man, or faith in good works, or faith personal effort to achieve oneness with God.
Great faith?? YES! Oh but my friend, it's possible to have great faith in thin ice and fall through and drown; it's possible to have little faith in thick ice and walk safely across a frozen lake.
The issue of true faith is not it's amount, but it's object!
So what does Jesus do - 5. And a certain man was there, who had been 38 years in his sickness.
At 38 years, this man's problem had become a way of life. No one had ever helped him. In fact, he had been unable to convince anyone else to help him...he was paralyzed and his hope for healing lay just out of reach. I think of the legend of Tantalus who was cursed by the gods to live a perpetual life of hunger and thirst. Whenever he stopped to drink, the water would recede from his lips. Whenever he reached for some fruit hanging from a branch, the branch would sway beyond his reach. Tantalus lived a life of never being able to satisfy his deepest longings. His Greek name has given us the English word - tantalizing. You want something desperately, yet it's always just beyond your reach, tantalizing you.
Solomon wrote, "Hope deferred makes the heart sick!"
Among all those who wanted to be healed, Jesus found the one man who couldn't help himself.
In verse 8 the Lord simply, directly, pointedly said to this paralyzed man, “Arise, take up your pallet and walk.” And immediately the man became well, and took up his pallet and began to walk.
What a stir this created among the sick and dying. News travels fast! And whether or not the waters of this pool were ever disturbed, the city was certainly stirred up over this miraculous demonstration of power.
A few verses later as Jesus entered the temple, He saw this man and had a brief conversation with him.
Note the brief conversation in verse 14.
Principle #6 Authentic faith will transform your life.
If you have genuine faith in Christ and His word, it will change the nature of the way you talk; the ambition in the way you work; the motivation in the way you dress.
Faith is not something added to your life - faith becomes the way you live. The just shall live by faith!
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