3/5/23 – Long Distance Power (Mark Harvard)



So many signs!!!!

You know, it is amazing how sometimes those signs that God gives you are gentle taps (hey…psst….do this…) and sometimes they are slaps in the face.

This year for Lent I gave up soft drinks.  I know a lot of people did the same….how those headaches treating you?  They lifted yet?

So I made it through Ash Wed. And then a couple of days but then the Saturday afterwards I was craving one AND I felt like garbage.  Ginny will tell you, I was whiiiiiiiiiiiiiny.  So fast forward a week and I saw an article saying that the artificial sweeteners that were in the diet drinks I was sipping now “likely cause heart attack and/or stroke”.  So that makes that Easter morning diet mountain dew a lot less likely.  Its the and/or that bothers me the most I think.  Heart attack and stroke are both horrible, but the notion of having them at the same time…hard pass.  So I got that sign that I had made the right choice and then God gave it a nice volleyball spike out of nowhere.  He really does work in ways that we would never expect sometimes…which brings us to this week’s scripture….please stand.

John 4:46-54 ESV

46 So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you[a] see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. 51 As he was going down, his servants[b] met him and told him that his son was recovering. 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour[c] the fever left him.” 53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. 54 This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.

The word of God for the people of God.  Thanks be to God.

It might be hard for some of you to accept the reality that I am, in fact, NOT very athletic.  My ankles have been broken or sprained so many times that they are effectively paper mache.  I DID play intramural softball at the University of Alabama when I was a student there.  I was not very good and at one point I almost got thrown out of a game because I started calling my own pitches.  “No, don’t swing.  It is outside!”  The umpire did NOT care for that.

So with this admittedly NEW knowledge upon you, it should surprise and scare everyone that my 6 year old son has been playing basketball through his school.  He is still learning and I am not much help in that process.  But they did just finish his first season.  Things went ok.  We’ve got some work to do in the off season.  You know….thats when champions are made…

But in his final game, his team was playing a very talented and pretty aggressive team.  I’m sure that they were close to the same size and age, but in my mind they were the 91 Bulls.  

Well Jack gets going and things are going ok.  We are making some blocks, Jack caused a kid to lose the ball and our team recovered (there is debate on if Jack did that on purpose).  Then, at the end of the first period, Jack caught a hard elbow in the stomach during a rebound.  It happened so fast that I didn’t realize anything had happened until I saw him slowly running to the end of the court with tears in his eyes, holding his stomach.  

The buzzer sounded and the coach checked on him at the bench…gave me the sign for “he’s ok”.  But after that, Jack was tepid the rest of the game.  And I know that sometimes these things happen in sports.  I’m proud of Jack for not giving up.  I’m also proud of myself for not giving the stink eye to every one of those 8 foot tall 6 year olds on the other team for the rest of the game.

Parents, you get it, right?  When you kid is hurt, you hurt.  You want to fix it.  I’m told that this gets worse as your kid gets older, when the hurts go from mainly being physical (falling down and stuff) to becoming emotional.  Being left out…rejected….misunderstood….  I’m not sure how I’m going to react the first time Jack gets dumped.   THAT girl WILL get the stink eye from me.

So often, we as parents want to protect and save our kids from mistakes and from hurt.  We want to take care of the problem for them.  But sometimes we can’t.  Whether it is sickness, or addiction, or rejection…sometimes those things are too big for us as parents to tape up or hold together.

So lets talk about this official.  Most scholars believe that this was one of Herod Antipas’ court officials.  He left Capernaum and headed to Cana, about 14 miles away.  Assume he left around sunrise, so that means he could have been in Cana to hear Jesus’ words around midday.  

Now this wasn’t something that he would have just told his buddies “tomorrow I’m going to make a run to Cana to get some lumber, visit that grocery store that my wife likes, maybe see Jesus about a thing, and then come back.”  No.  This was something that he would have been in big trouble for.  Jesus was very unfavorable toward Antipus.  It would have been frowned on by basically everyone in this guy’s life.  But he had a sick kid.  And that is where the line is, isn’t it.

And it doesn’t have to be your child.  It could be a spouse, a parent, a nice or nephew, a best friend….when the people we care about are in trouble, we will do anything for them.  And for this guy, it was going to the one person that he was being pitted against.  Because that’s just it….when things get real, we get real about what we truly believe.  When the most serious of situations come crashing down on us, we stop worrying about how to look cool or appease society, we do what we trust and believe will actually fix the problem.  So when this man’s son is close to death, he stopped worrying about what was accepted and followed what he knew in his heart!  He asked Jesus for help.

Now in verse 48, Jesus kind of kicks it back to him.  He says “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”  Now within this context, when Jesus uses “you”, it is a collective “you”.  He isn’t talking specifically to this man, but to the masses.  This is an answer to something called “signs faith” that John is really not a fan of.  And it is basically the faith that comes from actually seeing things for yourself.

Man Jesus…Ouch.

I mean…fair, but ouch!

So was he talking to the masses there?  Or the masses back in Capernaum?  Or the masses today?  I mean, it is REALLY easy to point to God when amazing things are happening and things are going our way.  We often wonder if God is listening or have seasons of doubt when we don’t see God working in our favor.  During those valleys in life, we wonder where He went to.  Thing is, God doesn’t work on our timeline.  He doesn’t follow our schedule.  And just because we want something, even something important, doesn’t mean it will happen.  Nothing in the Bible says that christians are going to get everything they want on earth.  In fact, it says just the opposite.  There will be trials.  Things are going be cruddy every now and then.  But Jesus is calling us out on the fact that we often only give God credit when good things happen in spectacular ways.  Its like it doesn’t count unless the miracle reveal is directed by Michael Bay.  It can’t be only about the miracles. 

So here is where things get very interesting.  The official asked Jesus to “come down” (elevation, not geographic), before my child dies.”  And Jesus says to him “go, your son will live”.  So this guy is a good 14 or so miles from home and it is a long walk, so he likely stayed overnight before hitting the road the next morning at dawn.  Early start.  So he makes his way back and as he approaches home, his servants rush to him and let him know that his son is getting better.  So the guy asks when things turned around.  They say it was in the 7th hour, which was around 1pm or so…exactly when Jesus said that he would live.  *head explodes*

He didn’t even need to be there!  There was no abracadabra!  There was no laying on hands!  There was no secret handshake!  Jesus said it and it was done!  That is power my friend!

Now back in these days, long distance healing was not common.  Most of the cheap magicians had to put down the balloon animals they were working on and lay hands before pretending to heal someone.  So the fact that Jesus just said it and boom, 14 miles away this kid is recovering…I don’t know about you, but that is a major flex.

But it is also a sign of God’s true power.  Jesus isn’t limited by space and time because he is part of both.  And it is shown over and over again that our faith prepares us for amazing things through Him.  It may not look the way we think, but I also don’t think that this guy was prepared for Jesus to heal his kid long distance either!  He was begging Him to come see his son.  He thought that was how it worked.  But God doesn’t get confined to our definition and expectations.  So often, God shows up in ways that we could never imagine!  Nothing is impossible!  Healing happens!  Addicts are healed!  Rifts are repaired!  Things that we cannot begin to attempt are made possible ONLY through Christ.  

In my life I’ve been fortunate enough to see God at work in the hearts of people.  I’ve seen people softened.  Attitudes shifted.  I’ve seen people respond to treatments in a way that is unimaginable.  

MIRCLE STORY – Scott Marr – Nebraska

posterior reversible encephalopathy syndrome

God is bigger than death.

We we could look at it and try to explain it away.  Human beings are really good at that, but should we?  Or should we give God the glory for things that can only be Him?  We should be looking at these things with a sense of wonder, not skepticism.  We need to stop trying to explain away God’s power!  

It doesn’t have to be big things either!  God works in small things as well.  That merciful few seconds that allowed you to avoid being t-boned by that truck.  Being there at the right time to hug and cry with someone that has just lost a spouse.  An entire church body surrounding and praying with and over our students.  The smile of some of our children as you that they totally get that Jesus loves them.  God is working in this.  (Audio of Jack)

God works through all of those things.

We have people in this room that have experienced God’s power firsthand.  Addicts have been freed from the bonds of drugs, families have been reunited, hearts full of apathy and unworthiness have been filled with God’s love and grace.  And let me tell you, God isn’t done doing it yet.

I’m required by law to mention that I was also at the Asbury Revival a few weeks ago.  The spirit there was palpable.  It was thick.  God was at work in those kids and it has spread in a way that ONLY God can make work.  This spirit of revival has crossed distances…boundaries…..state lines….denominations……God is working on a global level and I just hope you are ready for it.  

Buckle up.  

Because whatever you have here today with you.  

Whatever worry, 

whatever family issues, 

whatever pain, 

whatever grief, 

whatever loneliness…..

Know that God is bigger than that.  Turn it over to Him.  Stop trying to explain it away.  Stop trying to decide for God what is worth His time or His effort.  Leave it at these altars this morning.  And when you leave here or when you close the streaming window, know that God has heard your prayer.  The response may not be what you want or are expecting, but know this without a doubt, God is working in your life.  There are signs everywhere.  You just have to look up and see it.

The sign that the official got from this experience was that God’s power has no limit and that he can bring healing at a distance.  He experienced healing in a way that nobody expected.  They had no idea that it could work this way.  But that’s what God does.  He works in a way and at a level that we can’t fathom, understand, or explain.  

Let us pray.

Father, so often we think that we will shoulder our hardships alone.  We think that either our problems aren’t worthy of your attention or we question whether you can help at all.  Father some of us suffer in silence.  So we keep everything bottled up.  We contain it.  We try to protect everyone else from inconvenience or worry.  Others of us have concerns that are too big to hide.  So we suffer publicly and deal with our grief, or guilt, or shame.  Help us to trust more God, help us to see that no matter what rock we are carrying, that you are there to help us with the weight.  We do not suffer alone…and that nothing we have is bigger than you God.  Because we’ve seen it in small ways God.  We’ve seen the tiny gestures at just the right moment.  We’ve experienced the nudges that you’ve given us.  And God, we have seen AMAZING things happen that can ONLY be you.  Help us to see that you never leave us…..Amen.