A man fell off a cliff but managed to grab a tree limb on the way down. The following conversation ensued. “Is anyone up there?” he called out. “I am here,” the Lord replied, “Do you believe me?” “Yes, Lord, I believe. I really believe, but I can’t hang on much longer,” the man exclaimed. “That’s all right” the Lord explained, “if you really believe you have nothing to worry about. I will save you. Just let go of the branch.” After a long pause, the man called out again, “Is anyone else up there?
The story about a man hanging from a cliff highlights the importance of faith even though it might be extreme. John 4:46-54 contains another story about the importance of faith. A royal official came to Jesus and gave us an example of uncommon faith.
The response of the royal official to Jesus stands out in comparison to his fellow Galileans. The Galileans welcomed Jesus, but Jesus knew their response was superficial and fickle. In comparison, the royal official response to Jesus with thoughtfulness and obedience. The royal official and the Galileean approaches to faith can be summed up in two very different statements.
“I’LL BELIEVE IT WHEN I SEE IT” (4:43-48).
The Jews in Galilee had heard all about Jesus signs and wonders. They had heard how he turned water into wine (John 2:1-12). They saw the signs he did in Jerusalem during the Passover feast (John 4:45).
The royal official had also heard about Jesus and he was desperate. He probably served at the pleasure of Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great who married his half-brother’s wife, Herodias. As a representative of the state, he had a certain level of power and authority, but he was powerless to save his own son from death.
Jesus confronted the royal official and condemned this approach to faith. Jesus performed plenty of signs during his ministry, but for a specific purpose – that people would believe in him and experience eternal life (John 20:30-31). The Galileans saw Jesus as a wonder-worker, a cure-all magician who had to prove himself.
God doesn’t have to prove himself to any of us. He has chosen, in his grace, to reveal himself to us. When we demand a sign from God before we will believe, we place ourselves in authority over God.
“I’LL BELIEVE IT BECAUSE HE SAID IT” (4:49-54).
Jesus responded to the royal official with a command. Jesus ordered the official to go back home because his son had already been healed. The official believed Jesus and demonstrated his belief by leaving Jesus without any visible evidence of a miracle.
The royal official received confirmation before he ever saw his son. He came across some of his servants who were on their way to update him on his son’s condition. He knew that Jesus had healed his son because it happened just as Jesus gave the command.
The authenticity of the royal official’s faith in Christ can be seen in two ways. First, he cared enough to share with his family. It was common in the first century for the family to take on the faith of the father, that doesn’t mean his family was just faking it. They experienced a miraculous healing in their home and they believed. Second, he continued to believe in Jesus even after his crisis was over.
The two approaches to faith on display in this story teach us one main truth: faith that demands a sign is not really faith at all. Faith is how we access eternal life. If we don’t have faith in Jesus Christ as the sinless Son of God, we cannot share in the eternal life that he has to offer. The royal official is not lifted up as an exception, but the rule. His “uncommon faith is the kind of faith” we must all have to be saved from our sins.
This matches the definition of faith found in Hebrews 11:1: “Faith is assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (NASB). It also helps to explain Thomas’ encounter with Jesus after the resurrection (John 20:24-29). Most people refer to him as “Doubting Thomas” because he refused to believe in the resurrection until he saw Jesus for himself. When Jesus finally appeared to Thomas he invited the skeptical disciple to touch his scars. Then, Jesus rebuked Thomas and blessed those who believe in him without seeing him: “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believe.” (v. 29).
Augustine once said, “Understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore, seek not to understand that thou mayest believe, but believe that thou mayest understand.”
Click here if you want to listen to a message on this passage: https://www.podomatic.com/podcasts/unitybaptistashland/episodes/2019-03-11T10_17_13-07_00