46 So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” 49 The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies!” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way. 51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, “Your son lives!” 52 Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives.” And he himself believed, and his whole household. 54 This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee. John 4:46-54
The Scriptures tell us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). What does this mean? It means standing under and taking hold of the things promised to us in God’s Word even though we can’t see them with the eyes of our flesh. It means seeing with the eyes of faith what we cannot see with the eyes of our bodies. And, indeed, we as Christians live and “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7; cf. Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:16-17; Rom. 8:24-25).
God promises to all of us who trust in Christ and His atoning sacrifice on the cross His pardon and forgiveness for all our sins. Can you see this forgiveness? Do the heavens open, and does God’s voice sound audibly from heaven saying, “I forgive you all your sins”? No, we have only the word of the Gospel in our Bibles and preached by God’s ministers telling us it is so.
When we are sick and facing our mortality, do we see Jesus on His throne of glory and God’s angels descending from heaven to carry us home? No, we have only God’s promise that His angels will carry our souls into the bosom of Abraham because Jesus died for our sins and rose again (cf. Luke 16:22; 2 Cor. 5:1-8; Phil. 1:21-23).
Many, of course, do not believe this and, because they can’t see it with their eyes or understand it with their minds, they do not believe. Because they cannot see Jesus Himself announce to them that their sins are forgiven, they do not believe it when the Gospel is preached or Christ’s ministers absolve them. Because they do not see Jesus and His angels when they are on their deathbeds, they die in unbelief and despair.
But Jesus would have us trust Him and His Word and live our lives with faith in His promises.
Consider the nobleman who came to Jesus. While Jesus was in Cana, this nobleman from Capernaum came to Jesus because his son was deathly ill. He asked Jesus to come down to Capernaum (down in the Jordan valley along the Sea of Galilee) and heal his son.
But what does Jesus say? “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” The nobleman had heard of Jesus and was, perhaps, ready to believe Jesus could help in this hour of desperate need – if Jesus came down to Capernaum and to his house. But did Jesus, the eternal Son of God who created all things by His almighty word need to go and be visibly present in this man’s home? Jesus desired that this man have faith in His words even if he could not yet see their fulfillment with his eyes. Jesus told him, “Go your way; your son lives.”
A remarkable thing happened. This man who had begged Jesus to come down before his son died now believed and returned to his house. Jesus’ words not only expressed a truth; they had power – the power to create faith in this nobleman’s heart. And he believed and walked by faith all the way down to Capernaum (about 25 miles), where his eyes saw the truthfulness of what he had believed. As a result, both he and his household came to believe and trust in Jesus as the Son of God and their Savior!
Though the world views Jesus as a great teacher and religious prophet, the Word of God tells us Jesus is none other than God Himself in human flesh, come into this world to redeem us from sin and eternal death. The world views Jesus’ crucifixion as a horrible death and perhaps a great injustice; the Word of God tells us that He died as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world — in John the Baptist’s words, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Though the world views Jesus’ resurrection as a questionable miracle; the Word of God tells us that Jesus’ resurrection on the third day is proof that His payment on the cross was sufficient payment for the sins of all mankind (Rom. 4:23-25). Though the world would tell us we need to live a godly life to please God and merit His mercy and forgiveness, the Word of God tells us that Christ Jesus lived a perfect and godly life in our stead and made full atonement for all our sins that we might be forgiven by God and counted righteous and holy in His sight through faith alone in Christ and His cross (Rom. 3:21-28).
Can you see it? Does Jesus prove it before our eyes with modern-day signs and wonders? No, He tells us it is so in His Word. And that Word has power. St. Paul writes in Romans 1:16-17: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” In Romans 10:17, the Bible says, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”
Thus, how do you know your sins are really forgiven when your minister announces God’s grace and mercy to you in Jesus Christ and, in the stead and by the command of Christ, absolves you of all your sins for Jesus’ sake? It is by faith in Jesus’ words and faith created by Jesus’ words (cf. John 20:21-23; Luke 24:46-47; 1 John 1:7 – 2:2).
When you are sick and face the reality that your body will one day die, how do you know that to die is gain and it is far better to be with the Lord? It is because Jesus tells us so in His Word. Cf. John 14:1ff; 11:25-26; 1 Thess. 4:13ff.; Phil. 1:21-23; Job 19:25-27. And His Word is powerful and creates and preserves faith in our hearts to live our lives and face our deaths in the sure hope of forgiveness and eternal life.
How do we know that in our baptisms, we are joined to Christ in His death and resurrection and all our sins are washed away? It is through the Word of God, connected with the water, that we are assured these things are so (cf. Acts 2:38-39; 22:16; Tit. 3:3-7; Eph. 5:26; Col. 2:9-15).
As we partake of the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper, how do we know that Christ gives us “in, with and under” the bread and wine His body and blood which were given and shed on the cross for the sins of the world that we might also receive and be assured of forgiveness for all our sins and God’s gift of eternal life? Again, it is His Word that accomplishes what He says and gives to us the blessings He won for us upon the cross (1 Cor. 11:23ff.; Matt. 26:26-28).
As we live our lives in this world, Jesus would have us walk by faith and not by sight. He would have us take Him at His Word and not have to see signs and wonders before we will believe.
And, like the nobleman, when we get home, we will see with our eyes that His Word is true. When we are received into the glories of our eternal home through faith alone in the merits of Christ, we will see that indeed Christ did atone for all our sins, that God accepted His atonement as His resurrection proves, that when we have God-wrought faith in Christ all our sins are pardoned and forgiven and that, through faith in Christ, the eternal joys of heaven are indeed ours!
O God, graciously grant that we walk by faith in Your Word and not by sight, for only through faith in Christ will our eyes ever come to see the blessings which are offered and given to us in Him! Amen.
[Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]