God created light on the first day; a light distinguishable from the physical light emanated from the heavenly bodies created on the fourth day. It is a spiritual light which transcends time and space. It facilitated all other creation and is thus the source of hope and life. This spiritual light is Jesus, who identified Himself as the light of the world (Jn. 8:12).
How much faith do we have left? When we spend money, the amount we possess decreases. However, when we expend faith, we possess more. This faith that grows from us expending faith is called ‘New faith’, which is a faith renewed to a level which we’ve never been before. It’s the faith of the spiritual world we’ve never explored before. May our new year’s resolution include a spiritual goal of going step-by-step to a higher level of faith.
Today’s passage, Jn. 4:46-54, captures this spiritual journey in a Roman official. He had travelled 32km from Capernaum to Cana with the purpose of asking Jesus to heal his son. Back then, Roman officials possessed extremely high status and authority. The fact that he travels so far to meet Jesus tells us that he’s probably desperate due to several doctors’ unsuccessful attempts. And so he comes to Jesus, believing the Jesus would be able to solve his problem. This level of faith may resonate with us. We’ve tried different things to fix our problems, but to no avail. And like this Roman official, we finally come to Jesus as a last resort solution. And, as we may expect, Jesus gives a cold response to the Roman official. Yet in this interaction between a cold Jesus and the desperate Roman official, we witness a spiritual change.
Three aspects of the old faith
(1) The Roman official had already, in his mind, limited Jesus to his own limited time. He told Jesus to come down before his child dies (Jn. 4:49). We see echoes of this mentality in Martha, who told Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died’ (Jn. 11:21). Perhaps we, too, habitually place a temporal restriction on Jesus when we pray.
(2) The Roman official underestimated Jesus’ ability to transcend space. He revealed his limited understanding of Jesus’ power when he asked Jesus to come down to heal his son (Jn. 4:47, 49). Jesus’ response in telling the Roman official to go back a long 32km to his now-healed son painted the same color of rudeness which Elisha exemplified when he sent his messenger to tell General Naaman to wash himself in the pool seven times without meeting him personally (2 Kgs. 5:8-10).
(3) The Roman official had his own agenda for approaching Jesus. He had already decided what Jesus needed to do. Jesus’ words, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe’ (Jn. 4:48), was thus probably laced with bitterness. Jesus exposed the Roman official’s shallow understanding of who Jesus was; He pointed out his erroneous attitude with sharp words of rebuke. The Roman official probably had an entourage with him, and so we must not let the humiliating effect of Jesus’ words escape us. Yet it was those very words which caused the Roman official to change his perspective and step into a new level of faith.
Three aspects of the new faith
(1) After Jesus’ words of rebuke in Jn. 5:48, Jesus told the Roman official, ‘Go; your son will live’ (Jn. 4:50). The Roman official’s response testified to an internal transformation in his faith: he believed Jesus and went back to Capernaum (Jn. 4:50).
(2) The Roman official’s faith was humble and steadfast. Despite Jesus’ humiliating words, he remained teachable and humble before Jesus.
(3) The Roman official possessed a faith resulting in evangelism. He realised that Jesus had transcended time and space after hearing that his son was healed at the exact hour Jesus had declared so (Jn. 4:51-53). Having experienced Jesus’ power, he testified of Jesus and evangelised all his household (Jn. 4:53).
The Roman general received Jesus’ words and let it renew his faith. Through His word, Jesus transforms our faith and equips us to overcome our problems by relying on Him. Jesus exposed what was missing in the Roman official’s thinking and attitude. We cannot change our faith on our own. Only God can change us by giving us a new faith. As Is. 43:19-21 declares, God will make a roadway in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. These are impossible things that show us the limitless power of our God, and it is because God can do the impossible that He is worthy of our praise. Let us receive the Word of God that effects an internal transformation in our faith, and may our new faith animate us to bear fruits of faith. ~ AMEN