Jesus heals a young boy – without ever seeing him! What does this mean? Read on…
We heard Jesus first miracle – changing water to wine – on the Second Sunday of Epiphany – early January. Now, with only a month to go before the end of the church year, we hear about Jesus second miracle: Healing the nobleman’s son.
Somehow, the man must have heard that Jesus turned water to wine, he must have known that Jesus could work miracles. Otherwise, why would he have come to him asking for help? Of course, going from water-wine to healing a dying son is quite a leap. But it’s a leap of faith the nobleman makes – because he has no other options. If Jesus can’t heal him, he dies, and that’s it.
The man comes to Jesus desperate for help, because lives are on the line. And Jesus promises the man that his son will live. Contented, the man walks away. Wait, that’s it? No waving of hands, no magic potion, or special prayer? No story of Jesus going and amazing the crowds? None of that. Just a word. And the man believes Jesus. He goes. And finds out that his son is healed at the very moment Jesus said so.
Jesus heals the man’s son without ever seeing him, or speaking to him, or even seeing the house where he lives. He just says to the man, “your son will live” and it happens. While there is no flash of light that comes out of Jesus lips and zips across the countryside, we do have the will of Jesus going forth from him, healing the boy instantly. That’s the power of Jesus to accomplish what he says. His will is enough. Death turns to life, a story we hear over and over again. But for the man, it’s a story worth retelling, because his son was saved. He knows who Jesus is, and what he can do. He speaks with the voice of God himself.
Even without Jesus there, he is there. He is in the room with the boy, speaking a word of healing – even while he’s standing with the father. Not because he is in two places at once, but because Jesus is very God of very God. He is everywhere at once. He is talking to that man at the same time, according to his divine nature, he is in heaven seated at the right hand of the father.
Jesus didn’t just stop being God when he was made flesh and born of the Virgin Mary and became man. He was still very God of very God, of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made. So, for him to speak to the man, and heal his son yet miles away, was as nothing. As simple as if he had been in the room, speaking. Of course, even there it’s still a miracle and we can’t do that. Jesus can. Because his words have the power and authority to accomplish what he says.
Now, powerful people can speak and make things happen in this world. If A billionaire says, “Buy me that company,” or Build a factory to make widgets”, then it happens, because of his word. The president can issue an executive orders declaring that today is Chocolate cake day, or that the military should do this or that, and it happens, because of the power of his word. But no matter how wealthy or powerful you are, you can not say, “Death stop!” and have it happen. To a paralyzed man you can not say, “Get up walk” to the deaf and blind you can not say, “See and hear” and have anything happen. Because those are the place of God alone. Medical science can cure some of those things, with great time and effort with treatments and surgeries. Jesus does it with a word. Your son will live.
Even when Jesus isn’t a around, Jesus is around. And when he gives the command to live, life is given. Some claim that Jesus – even as God’s son – is stuck in heaven now that he has ascended, and he is spiritually present with us, but nothing more. When he says something like, “This is my body” it can not be true, because he is there, and this is mere bread. We think about his body, and then he spiritually blesses us.
But the miracle today shows that to be a lie. Jesus isn’t there, but he is there. And when Jesus speaks it happens. When he says to us, “Baptism in the name of the Father, son and holy spirit,” and we do that, then that baptism is God’s baptism. He is the one baptizing, even though to us it looks like nothing has happened. What has happened is that the name of God has been placed on a person, and they are no longer lost and condemned, but rather are made God’s holy child.
And when Jesus says, This is my body, it’s not just that we think about his body, and good things happen. It’s that he is present in his body and blood to bless and strengthen those who take eat and take drink. As the Lutheran father’s used to say, “If it’s not really his body, then which of the four simple words, “This is my body” is a lie?”
And when he says, “I am with you always” and “where to or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them” we must not doubt that he is hear to feed us with his holy word and blessed sacraments. And when he says, “Whoever sins you forgive they are forgiven, whoever’s sins you retain they are retained” we must trust that his word is true, even though through all these things, he speaks through the mouth and works through the hand of someone else. That he has given to his servants the authority to speak his name and have things happen. Bread and wine as His body and blood, water as a not just water, but Baptism, “that is a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit.” The word of forgiveness as more than just a declaration of God’s love, but the specific forgiving of sins, against all the lies of the accuser.
Jesus brings life to the boy, he brings salvation wherever his word is spoken, wherever the spirit creates faith. Who hear could believe, with just a word that this new preacher – who has not healed anyone yet, could heal his son with but a word. The man does. He is for a witness of the power and authority of Jesus, not only to heal the sick, but to give life to dying and dead people. Jesus does this so that you might believe that he is the way, the truth and the life. So that you would believe in him, and believing have life in his name.