Rev. Kit Billings
September 19, 2004
This story of our Lord healing the son of a nobleman serving in King Herod's court may be brief, but it is loaded with spiritual information helpful to our growing faith in and relationship with Christ. To begin, let us take note again of the reality that the father in this story was not a peasant nor a fisherman of Capernaum, but a court official who worked for King Herod. John's Gospel depicts tells us in prior chapters that Jesus has already cleansed the temple in Jerusalem of its moneychangers and sellers of sacrificial doves, which means that he is most likely seen as an enemy of King Herod. Therefore, Herod would have likely not looked favorably upon one of his noblemen taking great lengths to visit with Jesus. I am impressed that this father had such “spiritual backbone” to be able to follow his convictions regardless of what others thought about him. I feel it is important for us to remember that Cana and Capernaum were about twenty miles apart. I gather that this court official walked this distance on foot, which again would reveal to his superior, King Herod, how greatly he supported and valued the ministry of Jesus Christ. This nobleman was willing to risk negative repercussions in the worldly sense by being true to his relationship with the Lord.
There could be no more improbable scene in the world than an important court official hastening twenty miles to beg a favor from a village carpenter. First and foremost, this courtier swallowed his pride. He was in need, and neither convention nor custom stopped him bringing his need to Christ. His action would cause a sensation amongst his fellow Jews, but he did not care what people said so long as he obtained the help he so much wanted. If we want the help that Christ can give we must be humble enough to swallow our pride and not care what anyone else may say. This man was willing to surrender himself to the spiritual facts before him, once he heard the great stories of the Lord turning water into wine and healing people of their diseases and possessions. He put his ego aside and surrendered himself to the Divine Love and power flowing through Jesus of Nazareth. I so deeply appreciate the courage we can feel in this man, in his beautiful story, as he walked and journeyed those many miles to find his Savior. In my heart I feel blessed to be exposed to this inspiring story in God's Word—and I pray that you do as well.
The other sign of strong faith I gather from this loving father's determination is how he responded to the Lord after Jesus tested him with this interesting rebuke in front of others. As we recall, after this nobleman had asked the Lord to heal his son, Jesus says out loud, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will never believe. And the courtier said to Christ: `Sir, come down before my little lad dies.'” This nobleman simply would not allow himself to become discouraged. And goodness mercy, what a tremendous spiritual power his story reveals! Personally, I have come to appreciate the many, many ways that God tests our faith at times, helping us to discover just how serious and committed we are to Him. If there are areas or pockets of weakness within the faith-regions of our spiritual minds, it is of such immense help on God's part to allow life to unfold in ways that enables us to become aware of our weaknesses—open to realizing just how much more growth we need to grow into a mature angelic human being, ready and fit for heaven.
It can take many years for our faith to greatly grow up, so to speak, and be able to withstand the severe storms we encounter in our spiritual journeys. Large, awesome trees of various species are one kind of correspondence of our human faith development once our faith has grown and matured over many years. Like our faith in God, trees are alive, and over many years they do more than grow toward their light source. They also get bigger and stronger and wider, bearing roots that give them deeper and more solid connection into the earth; the earth, as you may know, represents the every day consciousness we enjoy. So too, as our faith is inspired to start growing early on like an acorn-like-principle from the Lord's Word falling into our conscious minds during Sunday School, slowly it grows inside our minds, rising ever upward, gaining more ability to take in the lovely, life-giving light from above. The roots of a tree grow deeply into the soil, revealing to us of how real spiritual faith works through principles that apply one's faith perceptions in the Lord to down to earth situations and struggles. This nobleman's faith in the power of Love flowing through the Spirit of Jesus knew that Christ could physically heal his son. And what's more, his faith in the Lord was so real and strong that he could trust that whatever the Lord said was true. Initially, I would imagine, this concerned father would have wanted Jesus to walk back to Capernaum with him so that he could witness Christ's healing work with his natural eyes. But after the Lord said, “Go your way! Your son lives!” this good man believed and went on his way.
We too need to develop this depth and degree of faith in God's healing and regenerative work in our souls. For as Christ did teach as He spoke to doubting Thomas after Thomas professed belief in the Lord after putting his own fingers through the holes in the Risen Lord's hands: “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29) Earlier in John's fourteenth chapter Christ said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” Performing physical healing miracles are wonderful indeed, but they are somewhat lower in degree of significance compared to the spiritual works and healing power that God uses within the spiritual human heart and mind. God's Word, written as it is, contains at least several levels of meaning and truth, which reminds us that this historical account of the Lord healing a boy close to death, tells us that we also may suffer at times from some special aspect of our heart or mind becoming weak or ill, so to speak.
Have you ever had a time in your faith development journey when some new, young faith and optimism in God became prey to some form of mental or emotional “dis-ease”? Ever experience a time when your young faith in the Lord was made seemingly to struggle to the point of nearly “giving up the ghost,” so to speak, due to an inundation of worldly mishaps or negative experiences falling in on you? Sometimes we may start a commitment of believing in God thinking that the Lord will then keep us from having any disastrous or very painful things happen in life. We can sometimes form a bond with God not fully realizing that our part of the bargain is dependent upon God keeping us safe from harm or several crises happening all at once. I have found it easy for some of my own particular young aspects of faith, which continue to be born as parts of my overall faith in the Lord that began back when I was seventeen years old, to sometimes be built, in part, upon unrecognized false principles. Also, there can be a simple issue of “youthful weakness” in some parts of my faith in God, so that when certain really tough, strenuous challenges come along, the “youthful muscles” of those aspects of my faith do not, at first, rise to the occasion. They first must be either worked and trained over time, through successes and failures, or, perhaps, be deeply and powerfully revived back to life and good spiritual health by the power of the Lord's Love and healing Divine energies. This story, this historical account, in John's Gospel exists, in part, to teach us that when some part of our spiritual heart or mind has fallen ill, it is up to us to go to the Lord and ask Him to heal us.
One of my cousins, the Rev. Sue Turley, shared a most poignant example with me last Spring of a regular spiritual crisis time in the lives of many of our young soldiers engaged in warfare overseas who return home severely hurt or perhaps missing a limb or two. Some Christians are taught that their faith in God will keep them physically safe at all times and protect them from major trauma, illness or physical injury. Many soldiers learn as children, innocently so since their teachers believe such principles too, that their faith in the Lord will protect them from harm. Those permanently maimed soldiers with this kind of more immature faith in God often go through difficult faith struggles, encountering either extreme doubt or even loss of faith, as they struggle to make sense out of what happens to them, and why a loving God would allow severe physical harm to change their lives. Often, however, they come to discover the most amazing forms of growth in their hearts and minds—that God's greatest gifts are those of how He is so capable of magnifying our souls!, such as my power and ability to love the Lord and believe in Him. Or God's ability to lift up the downtrodden, or to heal the brokenhearted! Also, God's grace of my power to love and support others as well as myself, and to use these powers and develop them, since they are what help to join me in spirit to God and to heaven. Such spiritual strengths and mobility of heart and mind are simply more important than whether I have all of my hands or legs.
In other words, the Lord's greatest concern for every one of us is the health and vibrancy of our spiritual bodies (our ability to run and leap with spiritual joy inside; our capacity to sense God's presence and understand His omnipotence and perfect spiritual guidance)—these spiritual powers are the Lord's ultimate concerns. What many of our permanently damaged and maimed soldiers come to discover is that given the extent of the danger their military service exposed them to makes every day here on earth a miracle; each breath they inhale is a gift; every opportunity to contribute to the life and health and happiness of others on earth is a blessing. In short, God's ability to safeguard and protect our spirits from the attacks and onslaughts of hell becomes of such immense importance to every spiritual warrior, not to mention the Lord's power to help our spiritual hearts and minds to grow and develop, reveals God's grace and wisdom in their highest degree. Interestingly, these stories also reveal how easy it is for us folks to lose our appreciation for these blessings, which only the Lord can bring.
In summary, therefore, if we as New Church Christians would engage and learn from this wonderful, powerful true story of the Lord healing this young lad, drawing him back from death's doorway, then we need to be willing to apply its deeper truth (its inner meaning) to the life of our own spirit today. No matter what kind of spiritual downfall or dis-ease we may encounter, the Lord will always have the power to lift our lives from spiritual death or spiritual near-death. More than any other part of the Lord's Gospel story, Christ's resurrection from natural death sheds this great truth upon our minds. No wonder, therefore, we find so many, many accounts in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John of Jesus healing people of so many awful and scary physiological diseases.
The Lord wants you to understand, without any lack of Scriptural evidence, that He can heal your soul when it is lame or wounded, surrounding and holding and blessing it in His brilliant, oh-so-warm, golden-white Light from His infinite, Divine Love. As we come to Communion this Sabbath day, may we come into the Lord's presence with the kind of faith shown to us this morning in the story of the healing of the nobleman's son.