Introduction: Curiosity vs Genuine Faith.
Today The concept of faith is a fascinating conversation. One the hand, some would say we should not talk about it because they think it leads to needless points of tension. Others want to talk about faith but to keep it vague and positive. The second group, has the same desire as the first group, but think they have found a better solution. They believe their solution allows for more to have the conversation, but keep everyone happy. Examples of this would public figures like Deepark Chopra, the Dalai Lama, or Oprah Winfrey. These public figures encourage what we might call “spiritual curiosity.” Deepark Chopra once told Time magazine:
“The most inspiring thing [the Dalai Lama] ever told me was to ignore all organized faiths and keep to the road of higher consciousness. ‘Without relying on religion, we look to common sense, common experience and the findings of science for understanding,’ he said.”—Deepak Chopra, Time
I think these types of thoughts are dangerous. They help to cultivate a culture of shallow beliefs. What ends happening is when someone speaks up with genuine conviction then people ask themselves, “Why can’t you just be more chill like Oprah or the Dalai Lama?” People don’t realize this practice foster disingenuous belief. These practices are not unique to our age, but where around during Jesus time. Our text today addresses this very issue. I think what Jesus primarily wants us to understand is…
Theme: We encourage genuine persevering faith because it yields great reward.
1. Rebuking Disingenuous Faith—John 4.46-48.
Let’s remember at the beginning of John 4 Jesus was leaving Judea and headed back to Galilee. Jesus makes a strategic, controversial stop in Samaria. It was strategic because He was able to able to offer Gospel hope to social and ethnic outcast. It was controversial because even His own disciples were disturbed by His actions. John tells us the Samaritans fully received Jesus—READ John 4.39, 41. John is setting up a comparison contrast between the Jews and Samaritans.
In our text today Jesus has come back to Cana, and the author reminds us Jesus performed His first sign there because He is going to perform His second (John 4.46a). After His arrival Jesus approached by a man who was more than likely a royal official in Herod’s court (John 4.46b). The man heard about Jesus probably because of the “water to wine” miracle. John tells us why he comes to Jesus—READ John 4.47. When we have REAL problems we go to those we believe have the power to do something about it. This official goes to Jesus because he believes Jesus has the power to do something about his circumstances. This man was very successful, but even with all his success, money, and influence he could not help his own child. He was desperate. The fascinating thing is Jesus’ response—READ John 4.48.
Why did Jesus say this? Doesn’t it seem a bit harsh considering the circumstances? I think there a few things that can help us think through this. First, what Jesus says in verse 48 is in a PLURAL sense. The word “YOU” is plural in the original Greek. Jesus is not merely talking to this man, but to a crowd. This is important because John is reminding us what happened earlier in His Gospel—READ John 2.23-25. This is also important because it is foreshadowing of what John will point out later. Consider the crowd’s response to Jesus teaching in John 6 after He feeds the 5000—READ John 6.60-64, 66.
Many people followed Jesus because they were fascinated or curious. The same is true today. Jesus is applying pressure to their curiosity. This is a common technique used throughout the Gospels. Think of the woman in Matthew 15 who said she would take scraps from Jesus’ table after Jesus said she asking for something that was inappropriate. When people experience hard things, or hear hard truths, their true faith will come out. Jesus is applying the same type of pressure to this man’s faith and the faith of all who are in the crowd. Jesus understands when people come to “faith” based on what God can do for them they do not want God, but what they can get from God. Therefore, when they are not getting what they want they will reject God. This is what Jesus is rebuking.
2. Encouraging Genuine Faith—John 4.49-50.
How is this man going to respond to Jesus’ rebuke? Much like the woman in Matthew 15 I believe this man responds with GENUINE FAITH—READ John 4.49-50. Even though Jesus rebukes him he does not give up. He continues begging Jesus. I say begging because we know the word “asked” in verse 47 should be translated “he went to him and BEGGED him to come down and heal his son.” He was unwavering in his request. It reminds me of Genesis 32.26 when Jacob told God, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” This man was desperate for God to act on his behalf. He knew only the mercy of God could heal his son. Friends, may we have this kind of unwavering faith in our most desperate hours. God longs to see a people who’s faith is unwavering. It is not about the strength of our faith but the consistency and persistence of our faith.
Jesus partially fulfills his request, but partially doesn’t. Jesus tells him to “Go; your son will live.” But Jesus did not go with him like the man requested. Once again Jesus is encouraging the man to have genuine faith. Think about this for a moment. What Jesus essentially says, “I’m not coming, so you going to have to believe me,” and the man does—READ John 4.50b. No sign was given; no miracle had taken place, except that God in flesh gave the man His Word. This was the same response of the Samaritans—READ John 4.41-42. Genuine faith believes the WORD of God. It does not all provocative signs and wonders. Genuine faith is not a “blind” faith, but a reasoned well-informed faith:
“Authentic faith is not a blind leap in the dark or a ride on the crest of an emotional wave. Authentic faith is an informed belief about Jesus Christ. John has stressed this throughout his Gospel. His purpose is to inform everyone who picks up his Gospel and reads that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Armed with this information, the reader can then choose to trust Jesus and receive eternal life. But we can’t trust Jesus unless we understand the truth about him. We need a basis for our belief.”—Carter & Wredberg, p. 110
As Christians we should encourage well-informed faith. What this means is people in our midst are having doubts we need to give them room to explore with us the answers they are looking for. We must never forget confident assurance only comes from trusting in the Word of God. So, while we offer them helpful thoughts and insight we must immerse each other in the promises of God. We encourage genuine faith through regular Bible-saturation. As God’s people we have been called to trust His Word over anything else.
3. Rewarding Genuine Faith—John 4.51-54.
It’s been a tough road, but the outcome of all of this is AMAZING—READ John 4.51-53. The man was told his son would be healed and his son was healed. The man left with no physical assurance. Jesus was not coming with him, but promised His son would be healed. This was a test. We are told all throughout the NT that God will “TEST” our faith (James 1.3; I Pet 1.6-7; Rev 2.10). In Hebrews 11 the author said Abraham was being tested when he asked to sacrifice his son (Heb 11.17). Later in Hebrews 11 we are told Moses endured the fires of affliction because of the “reward” awaiting him (Heb 11.26). Dear friends, genuine faith will always be tested, but in those moments we must remember the reward is greater.
There is subtle reward that can go unnoticed, which clues into the wisdom of Christ. Look with me again at the end of verse 53, “And he himself believed, and ALL his household.” Jesus chose to handle this the way He did because He had the salvation of the entire family in mind. Jesus knew the sickness of the man’s son was the result of living in a sinful world. Ask anyone who is suffering with a loved one who is facing serious medical issues and they will tell you it affects the entire family. Jesus was not just healing one problem, but He was offering the entire family a pathway to eternal holistic healing. He was offering them a world free of the effects of sin. In the words of Matthew 15 the family was asking for some scraps, but Jesus was offering them the Feast.
The final reward of genuine faith is it will continue to grow. Faith is NOT a one-time moment. It is not merely spiritual curiosity. We are told in John 1.12, “But all who did receive him, who BELIEVED in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” The word “BELIEVED” is in the present tense, which mean those who are currently believing or continuing to believe. Jesus says we are His disciples if we CONTINUE in His Word (John 8.31).
How do we encourage genuine faith? Genuine faith needs a healthy ecosystem to grow in. Paul tells us in Romans 10 that faith comes from HEARING, and more specifically Christ (Rom 10.17). Colossians 3.16 says we are to let the Word of Christ dwell in us richly. We need to make sure we are speaking and hearing Christ regularly. We hope and pray Refuge is the type of church where people can learn how to regularly hear and speak Christ. In that type of ecosystem faith can grow.