In the movie ‘Leap of Faith’, Steve Martin plays Jonas Nightingale a con man who claims to be a faith healer. As his team is passing through a little town in Kansas, one of their trucks breaks down. After they learn that it will take several days to get replacement parts for the truck, Jonas decides to hold a series of revival meetings to cut some of their loses, while they wait.
Jonas uses careful observation, advanced technology and sleight of hand to manipulate and dazzle the crowds. Many are sure he is a real faith-healer, but the town policeman is convinced he is a fraud. Jonas pays people money to pretend to be healed and to keep his secret.
Also, in this town, lives Boyd, a young boy on crutches. He desperately wants to be healed and he believes in Jonas. At one of the gatherings, the towns people encourage and then demand that Jonas heal the boy. He takes on the task reluctantly, knowing that he cannot heal anyone because he is a fake.
But the boy believes and so does the town. In a twist, there is a real miracle and Boyd is healed. Jonas is in shock and he talks to God in anger. He cannot explain the miracle and he feels like he also cannot take credit for it. In light of this, Jonas decides to stop conning others as a faith healer. Faith triumphs over lies and God has the last laugh. It is a very inspiring and interesting story.
In several places in the Bible, we see that faith is important when it comes to miracles. Mark 6:4-5 reveals that while Jesus was in his own hometown, “He could not perform any miracles there, except to lay His hands on a few of the sick and heal them. And He was amazed at their unbelief.”
When he traveled to Samaria, a land that was hostile to the Jews, Jesus revealed himself to a woman at a well. She was so amazed, she ran and told her entire village. And then, they all came out and they believed in him. Without any signs or wonders, they believed in him by his words alone. This must have been a real spiritual high for Jesus.
After two days there, he left to go back to Galilee. Nazareth is the place where Jesus grew up and it was in Galilee. It is like saying that Cowan is in Delaware county.
Also, in this area was Cana, which is about 10 miles from Nazareth. Cana was the place where Jesus performed his first miracle, turning water to wine. By this time, word had spread from a few who knew what happened that Jesus had performed a miracle there.
When Jesus first proclaimed his calling by God in Nazareth, Luke 4:16 tells us that Jesus went to the synagogue on the Sabbath, because that was his custom. At one point, he stood up to read and a scroll was handed to him. He read from Isaiah,
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down.
The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
The people from his hometown were shocked and they became angry. They said, “Isn’t this Joseph, the carpenter’s son?” Finally, they drove him to the edge of town and nearly tossed him off a cliff. During this skirmish, Jesus proclaimed, I tell you the truth, no prophet is accepted in his hometown.”
Now we have Jesus, in John chapter 4 headed back toward his own homeland. What was he thinking? That is the last place I would want to go to. After the way they treated him, you would think he would avoid that place as if they had the plague! But not Jesus.
Then, something strange happens. When Jesus arrived, they welcomed him. It doesn’t say they rolled out the red carpet and celebrated him, but they didn’t reject him either. Scripture says this was the case – because some had witnessed Jesus (found in John 2:12-25) turn over tables in the Temple and heal people.
Notice verses 2:24-25 especially, it reads, “But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.” In other words, Jesus understood that the people didn’t really believe in him as the Messiah, they were just mesmerized by the signs and miracles.
Once Jesus arrived back in Galilee, the attitude there was the same as what it was in Jerusalem. They still saw Jesus as one of their own, not the Messiah, but now also as a celebrity and one who did miracles. They welcomed and followed him, with great anticipation.
In essence, they believed in him but had no faith in him. We often use the words believe and faith, as if they were the same thing, but they are not. It is possible to believe someone, or something exists and still not have that belief affect your life.
For example, I can believe that planes fly but also lack the faith to ever board one. While belief is the first step in knowing something, faith deals more with trust and action. True faith gets me on that plane, even when I cannot fly it or understand how it actually goes about flying.
Now, as we return to Galilee, Jesus stopped in Cana. While he was there, a certain royal official, whose son was sick in Capernaum, which is about 17-18 miles away, heard that Jesus was there and traveled to see him. We don’t know how he traveled but if he walked, it would be a good 5-6 hours.
This man may have been part of Herod’s court but as a royal official, he was a man of means and part of the governing class. He had more than likely already been to all the physicians in Capernaum.
No amount of money or connections would help his son, so he turned in desperation to Jesus. Let’s be clear, he wasn’t doing this because he believed that Jesus was the Messiah, but because he knew that Jesus had performed miracles.
Once this royal official found where Jesus was in the city, he went there and begged Jesus to come and heal his son, and by this time, his son was close to death.
I can just imagine the crowd following Jesus listening in and moving closer. Would this be it? Would they get to see Jesus perform a miracle?
Looking at the man and then the crowd, Jesus said, “Unless ‘you people’ see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe.”
Frightened and fearing that Jesus would not go, the man pleaded, “Sir, come with me before my son dies.” Turning and looking into his eyes, Jesus saw only a man suffering and he took pity on him.
Softly Jesus spoke to him, “You may go. Your son will live.” I imagine those standing around were asking one another, “What did he say? Are we going to see a miracle or not?”
The royal official believed Jesus, he took him at his word and departed. There would be no spectacular laying on of hands, no sign for the crowd to gawk at. The followers must have moved back frustrated, waited for another opportunity. Imagine how that must have made Jesus feel.
The man left and headed home to see his son. He had to be saying to himself, if this man is a miracle worker, he must know what he is saying, so I will trust him. What choice did he have?
Let me just ask you-all, would that be enough for you? Because I am not sure that would be enough for me.
Were these just empty words meant to pacify the man or was more going on here? What did this man see in Jesus’ eyes?
Scripture tells us indirectly, that this man must have not wanted to travel in the heat if the day or knew better than to travel at night, because he left the next day. Remember, it was only a 6-hour trip by foot. Something caused him to be delayed. We know that by what comes next.
While the royal official was on his way home, his servants met him on the road with the news that is son was alive and well. Surprised, the man inquired as to the exact time when his son got better. They replied, “The fever left him yesterday, at the 7th hour”. The seventh hour in their time is 1pm.
Then, the father realized that this was the exact time Jesus had told him that his son would live. Just a note here; 7 is the number of perfection in the Bible. The use of the 7th hour is important because it was the right time for God to heal him. All things work together for good in God’s time. (Romans 8:28) This was No accident!
This Royal official had his miracle, his son would live! Only God could accomplish such a feat. Certainly, none of these things passed by the father of the boy who was healed. He trusted Jesus and Jesus came through. I think then, this man’s eyes were truly opened, and he had a deeper, stronger faith.
Then he went home and shared all that had happened and his whole household became believers. Had he demanded that Jesus come or demand a miracle, he may have not seen the same outcome.
Someone once said, faith is not what you believe, it’s what you do that matters. Rev. William Sloane Coffin once said, “Faith isn’t believing without proof it’s trusting without reservation.”
Also, James 2:19 reminds us that “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shutter.”
The question is, where will that belief take you? What will it inspire you to do – or what will it do within you to carry you through good times and bad? The question is, do you really trust God?
Our Hebrews 12 passage reminds us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. After all he has been through already for us, it says, do not give up on him; do not grow weary or lose heart. Trust in Jesus and his timing.
Evangelist Beth Moore, once wrote, “After many years of being a Christian who believed in Jesus and His salvation, she said, “I felt the Holy Spirit leading her to understanding something new, it was this “I didn’t ask you to believe in Me. I asked you to believe Me.”
Hebrews 11:1 reads, “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” When we have that kind of faith, we live into it. We trust, and we act accordingly.
My question for you this morning is…do you believe in Jesus? Then, if you say yes…do you have faith to trust in all circumstances and to live for him. If your answer is yes, it is time to pick up your cross and follow.
Today, Jesus needs faithful followers more than ever.