Today’s gospel lesson (John 4:43-54) relates one of those miraculous stories that seems perfectly at home in the world of the Bible — but not so easy to fit within the naturalistic assumptions of our age. A man comes to Jesus, requesting healing for his son. At first, Jesus seems reluctant — apparently convinced that the man is more interested in seeing signs and wonders than in having faith. But when the man pleads — indicating that his son will die unless Jesus comes — Jesus tells him, “Go, your son will live.” Sure enough, the man heads home and is met on the way by one of his servants, who tells him that his son has recovered. And when the man inquires about the time of the healing, it becomes clear that it occured at the exact time Jesus spoke his words of assurance. It’s a powerful and encouraging story, of course; but what are we to make of it today?
One recent Wednesday night, a woman in my church (who also happens to be a member of the choir) went to the hospital, suffering from a severe allergic reaction to some medication. Our choir received word about the situation, so they stopped rehearsal to pray for this friend. Later, we learned that her situation had been so dire that doctors had been right on the brink of doing an emergency tracheotomy to restore her breathing. The procedure had become unnecessary, however, because her airways opened right around the time that her friends in the choir prayed for her.
Coincidence? Maybe. But it is worth noting, I think, that in the gospel story mentioned above, the turning point comes when Jesus has pronounced his word of assurance and the scriptures tell us: “The man took Jesus at his word and departed” (verse 50). Could it be that Jesus is more ready than we are to release His power in our lives, if only we would take Him at His word?
Of course, let’s note, too, that the story concludes by telling us: “This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee” (verse 54). And in John’s gospel, the “signs” that Jesus performs are directly related to the revealing of God’s saving purpose, which is at work in Jesus and His ministry. So I don’t think that we should find in this story a simplistic “name it and claim it” or “believe it and receive it” kind of theology. But we do find a reminder that God is at work, bringing His kingdom through Jesus; and He is still looking for people who will trust Him enough that they can become the instruments through whom His kingdom comes.
May we take Him at His word today; and may we respond in praise and thanksgiving as His healing comes both to us and through us.