Sunday School: The Word Heals
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When we meet together in person, we share our joys and concerns before we focus on our Sunday school lesson. Today people in our community are going through times of suffering and grief. Think about the needs of those close to you and about your own needs and concerns. If you like, you can share them in the comments.
Today’s lesson is about the power Jesus has to heal our infirmities and to meet our needs. It is also about having faith, even when we don’t see the evidence right now. It’s the kind of faith Jesus looks for in his followers.
The following brief prayer was posted on Luther Seminary’s Working Preacher website. It is by Dr. David Lose, a professor and pastor.
God of miracles, sometimes we are slow to believe in your power, even when your miracles occur all around us each and every day. Open our eyes to see and our hearts to believe. Amen.
Today's lesson is on John 4:46-54.
Jesus is returning to Galilee, the region where he performed his first public miracle, where he changed water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana of Galilee. After that, Jesus traveled to Jerusalem in Judea for the Passover. There he corrected temple practices that went against the holiness of God and he addressed a religious leader.
We don’t know how long he stayed in Judea, but we know he returned to Galilee through Samaria. Finally, the miracle worker returned to Galilee.
But John shows that Jesus is more than a miracle worker. Jesus’s miracles are signed of something deeper, signs of who he is and what he was sent to reveal about God. Jesus is the Son of God, and yet, as the prologue points out, many people would still not accept him or listen to his message.
The central geographical feature in Galilee is the Sea of Galilee, which is really a lake. It is the source of the Jordan River, and Cana was in the mountains west of that lake.
Jesus is n Cana again, and hearing this, a royal official who had a sick son, sought him out to ask for his son’s healing. This official is probably a man who worked for Herod Antipas, the ruler of this quarter of the region on behalf of the Roman occupiers. His son is not with him; instead, he remains in the town of Capernaum, about 16 miles northeast of Cana.
The son was apparently near death. Out of hope and desperation, this official traveled across the miles to find Jesus.
Instead of responding to the request directly, Jesus addressed the issue of the general blindness of the Galiean people toward his main purpose and message. They sought him our for his miracles, but they lacked the faith to see him for who he really was and to believe in him as the Son of God.
The royal official asks Jesus to come back to his home so that he might heal his son. The Old Testament prophets sometimes healed children or even raised the dead, but they always were in the presence of the person at the time. Jesus, instead, simply tells this father, “Your son will live.” It was not Jesus’s physical presence that was needed, but only his word.
The scripture says that the man took Jesus at his word. He left, believing that his son was going to be healed because of Jesus’s word. He trusted Jesus without first seeing the evidence.
This action and attitude is in contrast to the attitude of the crowds, who look for signs before they will believe. The official shows genuine faith in Jesus without the need to see evidence first. In this sense, he fulfilled Jesus’s proclamation after he appeared to Thomas following his resurrection: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed (John 20:29). This is the kind of faith necessary to be Jesus’s disciples, both then and now.
The journey was likely on foot and would take many hours. While he was on his way home, servants met him with the news that his son had been healed. In response, the man inquires about the time when the healing occurred. The servants tell him it happened at one o’clock in the afternoon the previous day, and the man realizes that it was the exact time that Jesus declared, “Your son will live.”
This leaves no doubt that the healing was through Jesus’s word. Jesus did not need to be where the son was, but even from a distance he could heal and restore to life.
We are told that the royal official’s faith affected his whole household, and they all became believers. This is how the gospel spreads and how one person’s faith is passed along to others.
Question: In what ways has God worked in your life to lead you to saving belief in Jesus Christ? How might God use you to help lead others to saving belief in Jesus Christ?
Beyond the detail of the son’s fever, we are left wondering about the son’s ailment. Perhaps it was a respiratory illness similar to modern outbreaks of MERS or SARS. Whatever the ailment, it was not more than Jesus could handle — even from a distance!
In addition to leading to humanity’s belief, Jesus’s repeated acts of healing show us God’s concern for humanity’s ailments. Human suffering is unavoidable — just watch the nightly news! Only God has the power to heal every illness, hurt and pain.
Ultimately, Jesus’s physical healings testify to God’s ultimate healing project — the spiritual healing of all who believe. As Jesus’s disciples today, we set our eyes on this ultimate healing that is available only through faith in the Son of God. True disciples live for the promise of Jesus that he will someday raise believers from the dead and give them eternal life. Only by faith can people become disciples of Jesus and experience the complete and final healing he brings. Even when Jesus feels far away, does your life reflect your belief that he’s never too far away to provide healing — in this life or int he life to come?
Heavenly Father, we pray for our family, friends and neighbors who need your healing. May your acts of physical healing serve as a testimony to your ultimate and final healing. Fill us with faith so that we might believe, even when we can’t always see your work. In Jesus’s name. Amen.
This week's benediction is from the New International Version.
Next week's lesson will be on John 12:44-50.
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We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.