“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27 (King James Version)
Twenty-First Sunday after Trinity
GRANT, we beseech thee, merciful Lord, to thy faithful people pardon and peace, that they may be cleansed from all their sins, and serve thee with a quiet mind; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Collect today makes one salient point concerning true peace – it cannot be had without the pardon extended to the believers of Christ. True peace, too, cannot be measured by the external physical self, but by that peace that abides in the inner soul. The heart is the Sovereign of the soul and, if it knows the peace of God, nothing else matters. A pretended peace only exists in the outward form of our conduct. Such peace cannot be purchased at any cost except that enormous cost paid by our Lord at Golgotha’s brow. It is a gift of grace conveyed by faith in God.
“MY brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the
breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” Ephesians 6:10-20
In the Epistle, Paul claims the office of an ambassador though it be one in bonds. We are all ambassadors of Christ in the bonds of love to Him and to our fellows. In the Epistle, Paul postulates the perimeters of assured peace in three categories:
POWER: Paul counsels us to “… , be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” All power comes from on High. But being soldiers of the cross, we must carry on with the commissions granted to us by our Lord. That whole armor of God is not a passive defense, but both a defense and an offense necessary to prosecute the war that must exist between His people and those of the Serpent until the sky be rolled back as a scroll. That war is not a killing field, but one of salvation. Though we suffer injuries and even death, we must prevail on the field of strife until the truth is trumpet in all four quarters of the earth.
PROTECTION: Firstly, protection of the Camp of the Saints requires that STAND watch on the ramparts ever ready for the enemies onslaught. Secondly, we must WITHSTAND the assaults and counter-attacks of the enemy to drive that old Serpent from the misappropriated lands he has falsely claimed. This part of our battle is offensive. We must never surrender a single plot of real estate to that hateful usurper. We are protected by our spiritual armor, but the battle belongs to the Lord. God is a Man of War and our Lord is the Captain of the Host of Israel – that is, all who have believed in that promise made to Abraham of a Redeemer regardless of race or tongue.
PRAYER: The last of the three components of PEACE is PRAYER. Prayer is the logistical support that, even though unnoticed in the rear echelon of the army, provides the sustenance for our field army to maneuver and prosecute the battle. Our support must be constant therefore, our prayers must be habitual and regular. It also constitutes our communications to Higher Headquarters. We must forever be willing to abide by the marching orders of our Commander and never launch out on our own volition in this war.
“ So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judæa into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. 48Then said Jesus unto him, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.” 49The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. 50Jesus saith unto him, “Go thy way; thy son liveth.” And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. 51And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. 52Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. 53So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house. 54This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judæa into Galilee.” The Gospel of St. John 4:46-54
There is a salient lesson on love and faith in this text. First, we should observe that the power of God is not limited by space or distance. Love is one force that grows even stronger at a distance – the only of which I am aware.
The Nobleman makes a journey of sorrow at the near death of his beloved son. Though he travels in sorrow, his steps are tempered with a great faith. He knows that Christ can heal his son, but there are some variables involved. His journey was one of a couple of days journey from Capernaum. His weary mind must have been tortured with the consideration that his son might die before the Lord has time to return with him to heal the boy. But when all possibilities of man fail, the only resource is prayer and faith – so the nobleman continues his journey. The more we love, the more possibilities we have to lose the object of our love. The greater love marks a greater sorrow in the loss.
The nobleman seems to have gained his measure of faith by word of mouth concerning the divine character of our Lord. He presumes that Jesus must come to the place where the son lies dying in order to heal him. But, like Elisha and Naaman of 2 Kings 5, the power of God to heal knows no geographical limitations. Quite often, we may feel deserted by God when, in actuality, He is more closely beside us than at times of ease and joy. We may, as Mary Magdalene, mistake Him for some other, but it is He that can only call our name in a way that no other can do.
Jesus knows the faith of the nobleman’s heart, but desires to reveal that faith to all around Him. So, he says to the nobleman, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.” Jesus said that to expose the false notions of false professors that faith can only be realized through ‘signs and wonders.’ The latter Has been responsible for the deception of millions in megachurches where signs and wonders are promised to those with itching ears. In the end, the only faith that matters in that of the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of our Redeemer on our own behalf. “This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.” 30 “For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.” (Luke 11:29-30) If you are under the misconception that our present generation is not an evil and adulterous generation, consider what is happening with great regularity on the streets and in the dark chambers of America today, or the ruthless and inhumane excursion of Hamas into southern Israel.
The nobleman did not completely understand the response of Christ, so he pressed his petition: “The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die.” When Jesus assured the man that his son would live, there were no further questions from the nobleman. He accepted the Lord’s assurance at the face level of faith: “Go thy way; thy son liveth.”
No longer was his journey home a journey of sorrow, but of expectant hope. His faith was enhanced by the assurance of Christ. That journey would end in one of peace when the servant of the nobleman met him some distance on the journey to assure him that the son was recovered. To reinforce his faith, the nobleman inquired of the exact time of the recovery. “And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. 53So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house.”
Every prayer that originates in true faith is answered by the Lord – either yes or no, depending on what the Lord considers best for us. The great lesson of this Gospel Text is that God is just as near us in Heaven today as He was in the company of the nobleman on the way. The communications of the petitioner to God is never severed except by the absence of faith, or the regard for iniquity in the heart of the petitioner. There is no distance with God who is wholly present in all His Creation – even at our very sides as we worship at this moment.