A Bridge Too Far?
After the two days he left for Galilee. Now, Jesus knew well from experience that a prophet is not respected in the place where he grew up. So when he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, but only because they were impressed with what he had done in Jerusalem during the Passover Feast, not that they really had a clue about who he was or what he was up to.
Now he was back in Cana of Galilee, the place where he made the water into wine. Meanwhile in Capernaum, there was a certain official from the king’s court whose son was sick. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and asked that he come down and heal his son, who was on the brink of death. Jesus put him off: “Unless you people are dazzled by a miracle, you refuse to believe.”
But the court official wouldn’t be put off. “Come down! It’s life or death for my son.”
Jesus simply replied, “Go home. Your son lives.”
The man believed the bare word Jesus spoke and headed home. On his way back, his servants intercepted him and announced, “Your son lives!”
He asked them what time he began to get better. They said, “The fever broke yesterday afternoon at one o’clock.” The father knew that that was the very moment Jesus had said, “Your son lives.”
That clinched it. Not only he but his entire household believed. This was now the second sign Jesus gave after having come from Judea into Galilee. — John 4:43–54, The Message
Believing is not always the easiest thing in the world. So often we make it out to be something that people can “just do.” But, when we slow down a minute we have to realize that there is a real cost and real risk involved in the believing.
When I was younger I would often think to myself, “How is it that people don’t believe?” I mean it seemed so self-evident to me. God, Jesus, all of it just seemed so logical and straightforward. It seemed to be the thing that made the world make sense. Yet, so many struggled with the idea of it.
One conversation that has stuck with me for nearly twenty years was with a college student at Illinois State University. This man needed no convincing of his sin-sickness. He knew he was hurting and in need of healing. He was fully aware of broken relationships that needed restoration. Forgiveness was something that he desperately wanted. Yet, the idea of receiving grace that he did not earn was a bridge too far. Here, he stumbled. It made no sense to him. He desperately wanted to believe it but it just didn’t make any sense to him. There was no anger or dislike of Christians. He was unchurched so there wasn’t any kind of church baggage. It was simply the idea that a God existed who would love him without condition seemed so illogical and unfathomable that he could not give intellectual ascent to the concept, let alone belief.
As I read this story of the official in the King’s court it struck me how much it would cost this man to believe Jesus. His belief told him that he needed Jesus to come and be in person with his son to heal him. But, Jesus simply said, “Go, your son lives.” How does that work? What would you do? If you, in your heart of hearts believed that Jesus needed to be in person with your dying son to heal him, would you believe?
I don’t know if I would.
I would want to.
But the cost would be so great if I was wrong.
I think about that young man from Illinois State often. What would the cost of his belief in grace be? I think perhaps the cost may have been his sense of autonomy. We want to believe that we don’t need anyone or anything to help us. But, the truth of the matter is that we desperately need one another. To believe in grace demands that we set aside our personal autonomy and acquiesce to the love of the Divine. For rugged individualists, that’s tough stuff.
It’s an interesting thought isn’t it? The thought that something freely given actually comes to us for great cost. It’s not that we earn grace but the receipt of grace demands that we trust.
I am learning that trust is often a bridge too far.
Trust is a cost that many of us are unwilling to pay.
I read this story and am left in awe by the belief of the official. His radical trust that Christ, with a “bare word”, could save his son leaves me slack jawed.
Belief, faith, trust, isn’t easy. It costs.
Sometimes when we do trust we get to experience the joy of life, the joy of healing, the joy of resurrection.
As I ponder this story, I think I’m realizing again the risk of belief, the cost of trust, is worth the joy that is set before me.