God and the Revealed God
Trinity Twenty One
October 14, 2001
St. John 4:46-54
Have you ever worried about
a sick child? I canít think of a
more helpless kind of worry. It is
one thing to be behind in paying bills or to be faced with a difficult job that
will take quite a bit of work to compete. You
know you face a challenge, but it is within your power to do something about it.
But when the fever keeps rising and nothing you can do will stop it you
feel a helplessness that is unlike any other.
At such times we are reminded that it was not we who chose life for our
children. It was God.
And we cannot keep our own children from dying.
God gave. God can take away.
When he does, we are helpless.
Itís not just that we are helpless to stop death
from taking his prey, it is even worse than that.
We are helpless to understand why our merciful Father would permit such a
thing to happen. There is so much
we donít understand about God. There
is no good reason why a child should die. What
must we think of the God who lets it happen?
Does he want to give us pain? Does
he not know how we feel? Doesnít
he care? When bad things happen and a good God doesnít stop them
from happening we are left wondering what God is like.
This is the hidden god.
He hides himself. He sends
us pain without a word of explanation. If
the crop fails we grin and bear it. If
the child dies we cry and bear it. We
bear it, but we donít really learn anything.
I mean, really, what do we learn? Oh,
I suppose you could say we learn patience. But face it. Folks
become just as bitter as patient. Suffering
the loss of what you love wonít necessarily teach you anything at all.
It can and often does just leave you angry and wondering and finally
giving up on God altogether.
Unless you hear God talk.
Unless you hear his word of promise.
That is, unless you meet Jesus.
The nobleman in todayís Gospel Lesson met Jesus.
He had heard of Jesus. After
Jesus changed water into wine people began to spread the story all over the
country. Jesus had power that belonged to God. Jesus had revealed his glory.
The disciples had seen it. The
word had gone out far and wide that Jesus could do the signs that identified him
as Godís Son. The creative power
of God is what changed ordinary water into good wine. To meet Jesus therefore is to meet God.
The God who hides his face from us and takes away what
we love is the same God who reveals his love to us in Jesus.
There is only one God. The
hidden God and the revealed God are one and the same.
However, when we suffer loss and we donít have any word from God we
cannot know why. It appears to us
that God is far away and cannot be found.
So it appeared to this nobleman until he met Jesus.
He implored Jesus to come to where his son was and to heal him.
Jesus responded with what appear to be surprising words Ė almost as if
he were callused to the manís pain. He
said, ďUnless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means
believe.Ē Jesus was driving the man to trust more simply and strongly
in the word that Jesus would speak. The
man obviously thought he knew how Jesus would answer his prayer.
He would provide some kind of dramatic display of power.
He would go to the manís home and provide the kind of sign that was
expected of him. But Jesus
deliberately chose not to go to the manís home, indeed not even to approach
it. Instead he spoke. ďGo
your way; your son lives.Ē
Jesus stood in the flesh face to face with the nobleman.
He spoke. The words he spoke
to the nobleman healed the boy who was miles away.
Jesus spoke and by that speaking he brought life to a dying boy. Jesus spoke and by that speaking he brought his gracious
presence to a home filled with dread. By
his almighty word he brought that nobleman to faith. In fact, he brought his whole family to true faith.
Our text tells us that the nobleman believed Jesusí
word when Jesus spoke it. It also
tells us that the man believed Jesusí word when he saw that Jesus had saved
his sonís life. It was the same
faith. Jesusí words bring us to
faith and keep us in the faith. Without
his words our faith wouldnít even exist because it would have nothing to live
on. We live on the words of
promise. Jesus wonít deal with us
in any other way than through his word. This
is why he chose to heal the manís son as he did.
He wanted to teach them and us that he chooses to be present with us
through his word. In this way he
teaches us not to seek him out anywhere else than in his word.
Most people are very confused about what faith is.
They think that faith is a decision that we make.
They think that faith is doing something.
Thatís not true. Faith is
the very opposite of doing. Faith
is believing. It is trusting. It is hearing what God says to us and relying on the truth of
what he says. ďYour son lives.Ē
So says Jesus. Faith says ďamenĒ to what Jesus says. It is very simple.
Was it Jesus who healed the sick boy or was it
Jesusí word that healed him? What
a question! Jesus healed the boy by
saying the word. Isnít that so?
Faith trusts in the word and in this way it trusts in Jesus.
You cannot trust in Jesus without trusting in his word.
When you trust in his word you are trusting in him.
And when you trust in him, you are trusting in God.
The only way to know the Father is through the Son.
The only way to know the Son is by the Holy Spirit.
And the Holy Spirit speaks to us only and always through the word Jesus
gave him to speak. This is the word
written down in the New Testament. It
is the word preached from the pulpit of this church.
It is the word joined to the water in Holy Baptism.
It makes baptism a washing of rebirth that creates and sustains saving
faith in our hearts throughout our lives. It
is the word that is joined to bread and wine in the Lordís Supper so that
ordinary food becomes the body and the blood of Jesus.
It is the word that is spoken in the absolution so that Jesus Christ
himself gives here and now today in this place the same forgiveness he won on
You can seek out the hidden God in your suffering and
learn to hate him, or you can listen to the word of God as Jesus gives it and
learn to love him. You can rely on
your own experiences to understand Godís love.
One day you will think God loves you and the next day you will think God
hates you. No one ever has learned
to fear, love, and trust in the hidden God who takes away our children, our
parents, our husbands and wives, our property, and our jobs.
This God cannot be loved because he wonít even talk to us.
He just gives to take away.
But the God who sent his Son into this world continues
to talk to us through this same Son. It
is as the Epistle to the Hebrews puts it, ďGod, who at various times and in
different ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these
last days spoken to us by His Son.Ē (Hebrews 1:1-2a) In the prologue of St. Johnís Gospel Jesus is called the
Word who was with God in the beginning and who is God.
This Word became flesh. He
lived among us as a man. But he
chose, even as he was walking and talking and doing great and wonderful works,
to show us that he wanted to deal with us with his word.
The hidden God says not one word, so we donít know what heís doing or
why. The revealed God speaks to us
Is that enough? Or do you want
more? Must God do a miracle for
you? Do you resent the fact that
God doesnít conform his gifts to your desires but insists instead that you
conform your desires to his gifts? But
if we wonít listen to God we cannot know him.
If our faith isnít born from Godís word it isnít a true faith.
In fact, it is nothing but delusion.
Those who seek after signs and wonders are seeking after an idol.
They praise God for healing, but they have no word from Jesus.
They praise God for the gift of speaking in tongues, but they have no
word from Jesus. They praise God
for miracles, but nowhere can they show that Jesus has promised them healing,
tongues, and miracles. They praise
Jesus but it isnít really Jesus they are praising because Jesus has told us
plainly that he wants us to listen to his word and to find his gracious presence
there in his word.
Jesus said that the only sign his generation would
receive would be the sign of Jonah. Just
as Jonah was three days in the belly of the whale, so Jesus would be crucified,
buried, and on the third day rise from the dead. There is where we should look to find him.
In our baptism we are joined to that holy event.
In the Supper, the same body that there bore our sins and the same blood
that there was shed for us are given to us to eat and to drink and we hear
Jesusí words that this is his body and his blood given and shed for the
forgiveness of sins.
Do you believe him?
When he says what he says, do you think it is so?
Or do you think perhaps that his word doesnít take?
Do you think you can come to church and hear the gospel and it just
isnít so because you donít feel like you are forgiven?
Would you rather that God give you some kind of extra assurance?
Perhaps a bit more than mere words spoken through the mouth of a man?
Maybe if Jesus would start listening to us as we give him our ideas about
how to give out eternal life he would learn that the mere speaking of words
doesnít impress us much!
Well, thank God he doesnít listen to our foolish
notions! He rather tells us to
quiet down, pay attention, and listen to him.
We donít know how to find the God who is hidden from us when we suffer
pains, losses, and the necessary consequences of being sinners living in a
sinful world. But God knows how to
find and to help us. He says his
word and when he says it that makes it so.
Whether it is the little baby being baptized, the penitent being
absolved, or the bread and wine being consecrated by the Words of Institution,
Godís word always makes it so. The
young manís fever left him at the very hour Jesus said, ďYour son lives.Ē
This means that here and now at this very hour your many sins are
forgiven. God sees the sins you
hide from others. He knows that you
have lied, stolen, and lusted after what belonged to another.
He knows that these sins of thought, word and deed bring you misery,
death, and eternal punishment. He
placed all these sins on his dear Son who suffered in your place on the cross.
There he removed those sins from you by bearing your punishment fully and
finally. Right now he gives you his
word that your sins are forgiven. You
are free from them. God said it.
That settles it. Believe him. He
has never lied to you and he never will. Amen.
Rolf D. Preus
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