Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1. In our Gospel text for today, we read the story of our Lord healing an official’s son. This is a fascinating account for a number of reasons. It closes the first major section of John’s gospel account, and as such, it brings together a number of themes that the gospel writer has been introducing through the first nearly four chapters of his gospel. As we meditate on this text, we will do so under the theme “being brought from death to life.” And we will see how this story provides a metaphorical framework for us to think about our own Christian lives—how Christ brings us from death to life.
1.) We will first consider the twofold manner in which the characters in our text are brought by our Lord from death to life.
2.) We will then consider the twofold manner in which we are brought by our Lord from death to life.
2. First, we consider the twofold manner in which the characters in our text are brought by our Lord from death to life. We will begin by considering the son, who is literally brought from the brink of death back to life. We don’t know much about the son. His father was a royal official of some kind, which means that for him to be sick was a big deal. He would have received the best care possible to ensure his recovery. The fact that his father was willing to travel for two days to find this miracle worker named Jesus shows you just how desperate the father was and how dire the son’s condition was. The father likely wasn’t exaggerating when he said to Jesus: “Come down and heal my son, for he is about to die” (John 4:47). The father was concerned that his son was lying on his deathbed. In fact, the son’s death was such a guarantee that both Jesus and the official’s servants speak of the son’s recovery as a return from death: “Your son lives” (John 4:50, 51), as if he didn’t live before. In an almost literal, physical sense, the official’s son has been brought by our Lord from death to life.
3. But the official’s son is not the only person brought by our Lord from death to life in today’s text. It is the official’s son who provides us with this metaphorical way of speaking, but in a very different sense, the official himself is brought by our Lord from death to life. In the very next chapter of John’s gospel, our Lord says this: “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will” (John 5:21). And a few verses later: “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). So, as the official passes from unbelief to belief, he has passed from death to life. In a very real, eternal sense, the condition, spiritually speaking, of the official is not all that different from his son. The official begins our reading as an unbeliever. Sure, he has some hope that Jesus can heal his son, but he doesn’t truly believe yet. He is spiritually dead. And yet, as the narrative progresses, we see the seed of faith planted. Jesus said to him, “Go; your son lives.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way (John 4:50). And as the man gets closer to home and meets his servants on the road, this seed of faith sprouts into genuine faith. The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son lives.” And he himself believed, and all his household (John 4:53). In a literal, spiritual sense, the official has been brought by our Lord from death to life.
4. My friends, so too is it for us. In a similar manner, there is a twofold way in which we are brought by our Lord from death to life. The first way in which this plays itself out in our lives is in a manner similar to that of the official. Now, to be fair, most of us don’t have as dramatic of a conversion story as the official. However, regardless of what your conversion story looks like, in a literal, spiritual sense, you have been brought by our Lord from death to life. For many of us, that happened at the font when we were too young to remember. The water was poured over our head three times as we were baptized “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Through the ordinary water combined with those words, the seed of faith was planted in our hearts. And through a continued hearing of God’s word, this seed of faith sprouted into the mature faith we have today. But for others of us, this was not our story. For some, the font was not the beginning of our Lord bringing us from death to life. For some, it happened later in life. Maybe it was through the influence of a friend. Maybe it was through what seemed at the time to be a chance encounter with a stranger. Maybe it was a crisis which changed the course of our life. Or maybe it was something different entirely. But whatever way it happened, the Holy Spirit worked in our hearts to plant the seed of faith. Over time, we came to the font and received that seal and promise of the Holy Spirit, through which the seed of faith sprouted into the mature faith we have today. Regardless of how it happened, our story is not all that different than the official’s. In a literal, spiritual sense, we have been brought by our Lord from death to life.
5. But it is also true that one day our story will be like the official’s son. Unless our Lord Jesus comes back first, one day we will all be lying on our deathbed. In that moment, so many of the things that we have worked toward in this life, so many of the things that we thought mattered will be rubbish in our eyes. As we fight for our last breaths, there is only one thing that will matter any longer. Through the waters of Holy Baptism, through the preaching of the Holy Gospel, through the reception of the Holy Communion, the Holy Spirit has worked faith in our hearts. In a literal, spiritual sense, we have been brought by our Lord from death to life. And because of this literal, spiritual reality, we can be assured that our final breath on this earth will not be the end.
And though it tarry through the night And till the morning waken,
My heart shall never doubt His might Nor count itself forsaken.
O Israel, trust in God your Lord, Born of the Spirit and the Word,
Now wait for His appearing (LSB 607:4).
My friends, your story ends like the official’s son’s story. On the final day, the trumpet will sound and the Lord Jesus will return to this earth one final time. And on that day, In a literal, physical sense, you will be brought by our Lord from death to life. My friends, this is our hope. As we slog through the struggles of this life, as we feel the weight of life seeming to crumble around us, we know that this is not how it ends. Our Lord is coming back. He will rescue us from the valley of sorrows. Just like the official’s son, our Lord will bring us from death to life. This is our guarantee. May his Spirit keep us ever in this hope and confidence until that day comes.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.