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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Twenty-First Sunday after Trinity. John 4:46-54



The Twenty-Third Sunday after Trinity, 2013


Pastor Gregory L. Jackson


Bethany Lutheran Church, 10 AM Central Time


The Hymn # 1            O Day of Rest and Gladness            1:89
The Confession of Sins
The Absolution
The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual       
The Gospel              
Glory be to Thee, O Lord!
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed             p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 413   I Walk in Danger                       1:67 

Living Faith – Produced by God’s Grace and the Holy Spirit

The Communion Hymn # 350            Jesus the Very Thought            1:53
The Preface p. 24
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn # 464                 Blest be the Tie                   1:39

KJV Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

KJV John 4:46 So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. 48 Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. 49 The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. 50 Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. 51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. 52 Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. 53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house. 54 This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.




Twenty-First Sunday After Trinity

Almighty and everlasting God, who by Thy Son hast promised us the forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and everlasting life: We beseech Thee, do Thou by Thy Holy Spirit so quicken our hearts that we in daily prayer may seek our help in Christ against all temptations, and, constantly believing His promise, obtain that for which we pray, and at last be saved, through Thy Son Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one true God, world without end. Amen.

Living Faith – Produced by God’s Grace and Holy Spirit


KJV John 4:46 So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine.

This introduction is not a minor piece of information but essential to the point of this miracle.

John’s Gospel shows that Jesus’ public ministry lasted three years, that the miracle at Cana was the first of the signs of His divinity.

KJV John 2:11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

In Cana, Jesus performed a miracle at a public wedding, where the participants in the miracle had no idea what would happen. Pure water was poured into containers, so they knew what substance they had and how they filled empty containers with it. But, because of the Word of Jesus, they drew out excellent wine, which was so good that it was the subject of admonition – it should have been served first, not last.

This was so dramatic and unusual that the disciples believed in Him, and a large number of people witnessed the event. Doubtless many became believers at that time, so this healing miracle is one result of Jesus’ first public act.



And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death.

We know that this nobleman became a believer, because he came to Cana with a life or death problem, and he trusted that Jesus would address it.

LenskI:
Although he is a royal official with servants at his command, he goes in person to beg help of Jesus. Yet only his desperate need drives him, his own free heart’s desire does not draw him. If it were not for his sick son, he would not have troubled much about Jesus. God’s providence often uses our need thus to drive us to find even more than just what we think we need.
Lenski, R. C. H.: The Interpretation of St. John's Gospel. Minneapolis, MN : Augsburg Publishing House, 1961, S. 347.

Lenski seems to know what the official might have done otherwise, but we do not. We only know he sought out Jesus, believing in the power of this religious teacher.

The so-called Lutherans of today disparage this word “faith” by writing against it and by ignoring its dominance in the Old and New Testament. The first word Greek students learn is the one for faith, because the noun and verb are found over 500 times in the New Testament.

The Gospel of John could easily be called the Gospel of Faith, because so much is said about believing in Christ.

This is an important lesson about faith, and Luther gives us important insights in his sermons about this text.

Faith is not an intellectual decision, as the Book of Concord points out more than once. Those who argue against justification by faith on that basis are just using a straw man logical fallacy, since no justification by faith advocate claims that.

God’s grace produces faith through the work of the Holy Spirit, and this always happens through the Word.

When babies are baptized, the Holy Spirit enters their hearts through the Word and they believe. When some dissenters protested to Luther that babies are too young for this, he responded, “You are adults and you still don’t believe.”

Since the Bible reveals infant faith many times, and Jesus spoke of it directly, there is no reason to quibble about babies believing. The very faith we are to have is a child’s faith. “Unless you believe as a child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God.”

The Word arrives in many ways to convert adults. Some emphasize reading the Bible as a point of conversion, but there are also other events involved. Augustine is the most prominent. He heard children singing “Take and read.” He picked up St. Paul’s Epistles and was converted to faith in Christ.

So was I speaking and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo! I heard from a neighbouring house a voice, as of boy or girl, I know not, chanting, and oft repeating, “Take up and read; Take up and read. “ Instantly, my countenance altered, I began to think most intently whether children were wont in any kind of play to sing such words: nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So checking the torrent of my tears, I arose; interpreting it to be no other than a command from God to open the book, and read the first chapter I should find. For I had heard of Antony, that coming in during the reading of the Gospel, he received the admonition, as if what was being read was spoken to him: Go, sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come and follow me: and by such oracle he was forthwith converted unto Thee. Eagerly then I returned to the place where Alypius was sitting; for there had I laid the volume of the Apostle when I arose thence. I seized, opened, and in silence read that section on which my eyes first fell: Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying; but put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, in concupiscence. No further would I read; nor needed I: for instantly at the end of this sentence, by a light as it were of serenity infused into my heart, all the darkness of doubt vanished away.

KJV Romans 13:13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. 14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. [GJ – This parallels the proper wedding garment in the parable of the wedding feast. It must be the righteousness of faith, not any other garment. The baptismal robe worn by adults in early days is still worn as a contemporary symbol of this robe of righteousness.]

But Augustine had a believing mother, Monica, who prayed for his conversion, so she certainly taught him the Word as he was growing up. At the same time, he was so brilliant that the pagan world adopted him as the intellectual star of the pagan Roman Empire. So this pull existed between two world until the children singing pulled him into the Word of God that he already knew but did not yet believe.

So the Holy Spirit was at work on him all this time, through the Word, through his mother, through controversies within the Roman Empire, and finally in confusion when he found clarity in faith.

This is Luther’s point. Faith is a creation of God, so God plants it in our hearts and exercises it. This is a significant insight, because it summarizes the life of many saints and our own experience.

It is overlooked by unbelievers, because they have no concept of faith as living, just as many treat animals abusively because they look at them as things or tools - rather than a living creatures who feel pain and loneliness. 

We all know what physical exercise is. Our bodies were created to be challenged by exercise, to stimulate every function and to grow muscles and keep them toned. A toned muscle burns calories all day long because the semi-flexed position of muscle tone requires food for energy.

God exercise faith, which is His creation, by challenging it in many ways. Here is one example from the text.

48 Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.

The unbelievers take delight in this verse, because they find fault with everything said by Jesus. It seems harsh – but so does – “Run 10 laps before taking a shower.” One is called good coaching. The other is called harsh.

Jesus challenged or exercised the nobleman’s faith.

49 The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die.

The nobleman still believed and made his request, his prayer. In faith, he came to Jesus. Seemingly rebuked, he responded with faith in Jesus’ ability to come to his house and heal his son.

The nobleman was not left in the same state. He believed even more strongly when he responded with his request. He believed in spite of the supposed harsh answer. It is like the first no in sales. When people are asked for an appointment or for a sales decision, they usually say no for some reason. A confident person sees this as the first no and asks again. There may be a second no, so there is a third response that leaves the door open. That means, “I am still trusting in the chances for a future positive response.”

That is taught in sales, yet people forget this in their religious life. The apparent no from God is simply a different kind of yes. Jesus never once in the Bible turned down a request. He always answered the prayers of people who came to him.

I could say the same thing. I enjoyed writing about Lutheran doctrine, and I was challenged and silenced in every possible way. One LCA pastor even filed a formal complaint about a cover story I wrote for The Lutheran magazine. He made sure his buddy pastor helped him and sent me the carbon copy. I was banned in many outlets that wanted my writing and published it earlier. One congregation even boycotted Christian News for publishing what I wrote, until CN boycotted me. The result? a larger audience, not a smaller one. It also helped me see how that kind of reaction was the greatest possible commendation, in the form of condemnation.

The nobleman had another challenge from Jesus. He would not visit the son, but sent him away with this promise. Go home, your son lives.

50 Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way.

This is the great challenge God constantly puts before us, saying, “Without evidence, without any proof, trust that the worst thing can be a blessing.” The nobleman went home believe the Word of Jesus. He was already at another stage in trust, because the first request was “Come to my house and heal.” And now he was going home with only the Word in his heart.

Jesus Himself inspires such trust because of His gracious presence. And note that He did not demand something, not even proof of worthiness. He awaken the man’s faith to another stage by a direct challenge and then with another challenge – go home empty-handed. You will be thinking, I came to bring home the Great Physician, and I have nothing but a Promise.

But this is a Promise from God, who does not forget or lose heart.

51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. 52 Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. 53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house. 54 This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.

Somewhere between, the servants came to meet him with the joyous news, and he learned that it happened exactly when Jesus made His Promise.

The effect of this miracle was to deepen his trust even more, and to share this trust with his entire household. The Word came to him earlier, and he believed. Now the Word bore fruit and he shared that Word with his household, and they  believed as well.

Thus another outpost of Christian belief started before the death and resurrection of Christ. Therefore, they became part of that nucleus of the Apostolic Church.

But what happens when faith is not exercised? The fruiting vine must be pruned (absolved of sin pruning plus deadwood pruning) to be fruitful. The Gospel exercises our faith by putting difficult passages before us throughout the year. That is always good for us if we care to read them and meditate on them.

The truth must be taught, no matter what the opposition, so that is the second kind of pruning. Deadwood is parallel to false concepts, misconceptions, and outright error.

Some people begin to recognize error and see that they will be punished for addressing it. They silence themselves and often turn around to support the error. Instead of exercising their faith, they quash it. They harden their hearts against it and find reasons to promote error.





12. Over against this, man is a poor, weak creature, as St. Paul says, Corinthians 4:7, “We have this treasure in earthen vessels.” The treasure is the Gospel; but I am weaker than the vessel in the potter’s hands. An earthen vessel is a weak thing and is easily broken and its contents spilled.

Hence the devil, when he notices what a treasure faith is and in what a poor vessel it is kept, rages and storms, and in his wrath says to us: “I will strike you and shatter your vessel: you have a great treasure, but I will spill it for you; I will give you a blow. If I were permitted, how soon would I shatter the vessel. You are after all nothing but a little poor and weak vessel of earth.”

13. So God has placed this poor, little vessel among enemies. How soon may it not therefore be destroyed! It may be broken with a club; yea, if a serpent would prick it, it would go to pieces. It would be a small matter for satan suddenly to ruin an entire country. Hence he is angry, because God takes hold of the matter in such a bantering manner and confronts him with a poor little earthen vessel, and yet he is so great a prince and so powerful a lord of the world. I would also be vexed, if I were a strong man and some one were to tickle me with a straw. I would undoubtedly crush the straw in my anger, and would rather be met with spear, sword and complete armor; even as the strong Goliath was vexed because David, without armor, dared to approach him with a staff, 1 Samuel 17:43. Thus also the devil is angry because God wants to trample him under foot by means of flesh and blood. If a mighty spirit were opposed to him, he would not be so sorely vexed; but it greatly angers him that a poor worm of the dust, a fragile earthen vessel defies him, a weak vessel against a mighty prince. God has placed his treasure, says St. Paul, in a poor, weak vessel; for man is weak, easily aroused to anger, avaricious, arrogant, and weighed down with other imperfections, through which satan easily shatters the earthen vessel; for if God would permit him, he would soon have utterly destroyed the whole vessel. He breaks many an earthen vessel with false doctrine. Now all this happens, says St. Paul, in order that we may learn our inability to accomplish anything by our own strength, but alone by the power of God.

God has, therefore, bid defiance to the devil and said to him: Thou mighty spirit, I will oppose thee with a poor, weak earthen vessel; nevertheless, seize it. This angers the devil exceedingly. Therefore he goes about, as a roaring lion, in order to break and shatter to pieces the fragile vessels made of earth.


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