Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Last week, we left Jesus in Samaria. The people there begged him to stay, and many more believed in him. This week, we see Jesus return to Galilee. Although, he is a bit worried that His welcome there is more about the signs the people had seen in Cana and Jerusalem than his words about God’s love. So when an official from King Herod’s court comes asking him to come down to Capernaum and heal his sick child, Jesus response is a little rude. “Unless you see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” But the translation of Jesus’s words might be better put this way, “Unless y’all see signs and wonders, y’all will never believe. The Greek word used for ‘you’ in this passage is really plural. Jesus is not just speaking to the man, but to everyone around him who came to see if Jesus would perform another miracle like he did at the wedding. But the official doesn’t seem to hear Jesus’s words. He is desperate, for his son is at the point of death. When Jesus sees this, he relents and says “Go, your son will live.” The man doesn’t hesitate. Trusting that Jesus has saved his son from death, he believes Jesus’s words are true. As he is on his way, he finds out that his son had, in fact, been healed at the exact time Jesus said he would live. So he and his family all believe in Jesus.
The second healing story we hear this morning is a bit different. Jesus is back in Jerusalem, when he sees a man waiting by the pool of Bethsaida who has been paralyzed for 38 years. The pool was said to have healing powers when the water was stirred up. When Jesus asked the man, “Do you want to be made well?” he replied that he hadn’t been able to go in at the right time because he had no one to help him. No one has tried to help this man for 38 years? Jesus told him to get up and take his mat and walk. And he is healed. That’s when we find out that it was the Sabbath. Jesus has a tendency to ignore the Sabbath rules, and of course, the temple authorities immediately accost the healed man for carrying his mat on the Sabbath, which was considered to be work. And when they find out that Jesus was involved, they began persecuting him. Jesus’s response, “My father is still working, and I also am working,” just makes things worse. Jesus is claiming that he is one with God, and the Temple authorities begin planning to kill him.
We have two different stories of Jesus’s healing. These are the second and third “signs” in John’s gospel. The turning of water into wine was the first “sign.” John uses the language of “signs” to talk about Jesus's miracles because they point beyond themselves–
both to confirm Jesus's identity as the Son of God and to reveal the invisible Father through the actions of his Son. These two signs, in particular, point to God’s love for all people. These two men are very different. The first is an officer of Herod’s court—most likely very rich. The second was a poor man who had no one to care for him, or even to help him into the water to be healed. The official has power and wealth, but neither of those things could help his dying son. He is desperate, so when he hears Jesus is back, he comes to him for help.
The man at the pool of Bethsaida is resigned. He has given up even trying to get well. He doesn’t even ask for healing, but Jesus offers it anyway. These two are so different—rich and poor, powerful and powerless, one with authority and the other with no power at all—so why does John put these two stories together?
As I study John’s gospel this year, I keep coming back to chapter 3 verses 16 and 17: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. 17 “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Jesus’s signs are demonstrations of God’s love for the world. God’s love is not just for one group of people, but all people, including us.
So what are we to do with this? As followers of Jesus, we are called to share God’s love with all people. Not just the people we like, but all people. That seems particularly difficult right now. We seem to be at odds with lots of people for lots of reasons. People disagree about so many things right now that we are really divided, not just with people we don’t know but even in our own families. So how do we love each other when we can’t see eye-to-eye on so many issues? We remember that Jesus came to share God’s love with all people—rich and poor, faithful and unfaithful, even people we disagree with on just about everything. John’s gospel is all about loving our neighbor, all our neighbors. Why? Because God so loved the world, and we are called to do the same. Amen.