By Kanishka RaffelWednesday 1 Apr 2020
The man took Jesus at his word and departed. John 4:50
In John 4:43-54, we read the account of Jesus healing the sick child of a royal official. The scene is full of pathos (triggers) and emotion as the high official of the court begs Jesus to heal his son who is ‘close to death’. Jesus says to the man, ‘Your son will live.’ John records, ‘The man took Jesus at his word and departed.’ On the way home, the man’s servants meet him with the news that his son was well. He had been healed the moment Jesus spoke.
Following new regulations to contain the spread of COVID-19, many people have lost their jobs, closed their businesses, or been sent home to work or study. Our Prime Minister has discouraged even family gatherings. The pace of the changes coming into effect and the level of disruption to ordinary life is unparalleled. God’s people call out to the Lord for a cure for this disease, for the restraint of its spread, for protections from infection, especially for the many in health care, and for God’s peace and provision for the many people affected in so many ways — not only by the disease itself but by the measures intended to combat and contain its spread.
The pace of the changes coming into effect and the level of disruption to ordinary life is unparalleled.
The news coverage of this unfolding global crisis has been unrelenting. We are assailed, moment by moment, with grim updates on the rising number of confirmed cases and tragic deaths. Footage from around the world brings the desperation of sufferers and their carers into our living rooms. Reading the account of the healing of the royal official’s son, I was struck by the humanity of the father’s plea, and how authentic and easily recognisable it is, especially in this time of coronavirus. But, notice his response to the words of Jesus: “The man took Jesus at his word and departed”.
The exchange between the official and Jesus takes place in Cana (where Jesus turned water into wine). The sick boy is at the official’s home in Capernaum, about 40km away. John contrasts Jesus’ condemnation of those who are fascinated by what they see but have no faith, with the man’s response. He simply hears the words of Jesus, and ‘takes him at his word’.
In verse 53, we’re told that the official ‘and his whole household believed’. How he must have thanked God for the sickness that nearly claimed the life of his son but, instead, led him to Jesus, to his trustworthy word and to the experience of his saving grace for his whole family. God brought great and eternal good from the illness of that unnamed boy. Will you pray with me that God would do the same in the era of coronavirus?
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We must pray for our leaders, but we must not expect them to be perfect in all their decisions or even effective in all their actions. We trust and pray that they will be successful in leading our nation through this crisis, but we know they are only human as we are, and we must all play our part.
We can be very grateful indeed for the expert medical advice that is available to our leaders. They are required to make difficult decisions with sometimes devastating consequences in the lives of ordinary Australians. They cannot simply say as Jesus does, ‘your son will live.’ We must pray for our leaders, but we must not expect them to be perfect in all their decisions or even effective in all their actions. We trust and pray that they will be successful in leading our nation through this crisis, but we know they are only human as we are, and we must all play our part.
But the royal official recognises that Jesus is no ordinary man. He is the Lord. His word is truth. The boy was healed at the moment that Jesus spoke. He spoke the creation into being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. He commands the wind and the waves be still, and he banishes demons with a word. The sick are healed, the blind see and the dead are raised at the word of Jesus. Not every human word is false or wicked — there are words of truth and kindness. But, no human word — not even the word of a Prime Minister — can achieve what the word of Jesus achieves.
The person who trusts the word of Jesus stands on a solid foundation. Every promise Jesus ever uttered can be relied upon to eternity.
Jesus said, ‘Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest’. Matthew 11:28
In the midst of uncertainty and grief, let us take Jesus at his word.
Kanishka Raffel is the Dean of St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney, since 2016.