Faith is the lens that lets you look directly at the Son

Pastor Jeff Struecker

Someone once told you in a science class, probably when you were a child, not to look directly at the sun. Or wait a second, maybe you were one of those kids who didn’t believe your science teacher, and you had to figure it out for yourself. So you went outside, you looked directly at the sun, and it started to feel like your eyeballs were going to melt right out of your face.


All of us instinctively know that the sun is there, and most of us don’t need to be told not to look directly at it. You see, sometimes we know the sun is there because we can feel the heat of it on our skin in the middle of the day. I don’t have to see it with my eyes to know that it’s there. We know that the sun is there because everything around us starts to become bright, and we can see what’s around us because of this big ball of gas that’s in the middle of our solar system. 


I don’t need somebody to tell me that the sun is burning today, because I know the effects of the sun. I don’t have to see it with my eyes to believe that it’s there.


I’m using this simple science illustration that all of us learned when we were little children in school to talk about faith today. You see, what the Bible is going to teach us today from the book of John (John chapter four) is, it’s going to teach us a little bit about faith. Here’s what I want you to understand about this whole sermon. We’re going to look at a few verses from John chapter four today, starting in verse 43, but I’m just going to tell you everything that you need to know right up front. Here’s what the Bible is going to teach us about faith today: Faith is the lens that lets you look directly at the Son.


  Faith is the lens that lets you look directly at the Son.

 

Now, I want you to notice that word at the end of that sentence. Notice that I’m not talking about the big ball of gas that’s at the center of our solar system. I’m talking about looking at the S-o-n (capital S), the Son of the living God. Faith is the muscle that you have to exercise in order to be able to see the Son of God.


We get this story today of a guy who has a weak, struggling faith, and today he gets a chance to see who’s really standing in his midst when Jesus does this incredible miracle. And I think what we’re going to have the opportunity to do today is to learn a lesson about faith from a guy who we don’t even know his name in the Bible.


Farsighted faith 


Let me tell you how this story begins. It begins with a farsighted faith. I don’t even really understand this medical term “farsighted”, because farsighted means that you’re not able to see stuff that’s right next to you. Nearsighted means you’re not able to see the stuff that’s a long ways away from you. Seems like the guy who created these two medical terms was drunk, because by farsighted, it feels like I shouldn’t be able to see what’s far away from me. Well, today we see some people who cannot recognize what’s right in front of their faces. They really cannot recognize that the boy that they grew up with is actually the Son of God. They have farsighted faith. Here’s what the Bible says. It picks up in John chapter four, starting in verse 43:


John 4:43-54 After two days he left there for Galilee. (Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) When they entered Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him because they had seen everything he did in Jerusalem during the festival.

Now, the there in this story is Samaria and a conversation with a woman at a well that led to two days of talking to people that were not from Jesus’s culture and basically a different country. 


Let me give you a little bit of insight on geography here. Jesus was down by Jerusalem in the South. He’s making his way North. Most Jews would never pass through this country called Samaria because there was this bitter hatred between Samaritans and Jews. But Jesus passes right through Samaria, spends two days up there, and many people believe that he is the Son of God. Apparently we don’t have the exact details of the route that Jesus takes when he leaves this town called Sychar in Samaria and continues to make his way North. Apparently Jesus goes toward his hometown.


Now, for those of you who don’t know, Jesus comes from a town called Nazareth. And while he’s leaving Samaria, and many people who didn’t call themselves Jews and didn’t come from Jesus’s country, believe that he is the Son of God, while he’s leaving Samaria, he passes back through the region of his hometown called Nazareth on his way to Galilee. That’s the ultimate destination.


Here’s what I find interesting in parentheses. John, who writes this account for us, tells us this fascinating account when Jesus was around his hometown of Nazareth (We don’t know exactly how this went down, but if you read some of the other books of the New Testament, it tells you what happens here.), people don’t want to listen to him. They don’t want to believe in him because they have farsighted faith. They can’t see what’s right in front of their faces. 


That means the boys that were playing with Jesus at school didn’t recognize who was right in front of them. That means the girls that saw Jesus at the marketplace with his mom and dad didn’t recognize that this is the Son of the living God right in front of their faces. And when he passes back through his hometown as an adult, they can’t see; they can’t recognize him. And I think it’s probably because they’ve become too familiar with him, that he is hard to recognize as the Son of God because they’re not looking with the eyes of faith; they’re looking with their own physical eyes, and they don’t recognize. 


But the people in Galilee recognize because the very next thing the Bible tells us is, those folks in Galilee are thrilled that Jesus is there because they believe there’s something special about the guy, about Jesus. But folks in Nazareth, they don’t see it.


Listen, I started wearing glasses when I was in my mid-40s, and I have to wear reading glasses now because I’m an old man. And I remind my family of this; I have old-man eyes. I have to wear reading glasses now to see what’s right in front of my face.


I’ll tell you what makes this so frustrating for me. I had perfect eyesight my entire life until I got to my mid-40s, which means I’m the guy who could read the fine print at the bottom of the eye chart from across the room until I had to start wearing reading glasses. Now I can still read the fine print on the eye chart across the room, but I cannot see what’s right in front of my face. I know there’s something there, but it looks fuzzy, and I can’t make it out until I put my glasses on. 


And what these Jews in Nazareth had right in front of their faces when Jesus was growing up was the Son of the living God, but they couldn’t see it because they had become so familiar. They’d become so immune to who this man really was that when he passes back through their town, after he’s already doing miracles and after people are talking about him all over the place, they just see the boy from school. They just see the kid from the marketplace. They don’t see the Son of God.


I kind of want to ask you, do you get to the point that you become so bored with the stories that you start to become a little bit nearsighted about who this man really is? Because he really is the greatest man to ever walk on planet Earth. In fact, he’s more than just a man. He is the God-man or God made into flesh. But the people in his hometown can’t see it. So Jesus keeps moving.


Mark chapter six tells us that when he gets there, he doesn’t even do a whole lot of miracles in his hometown of Nazareth because they don’t believe. They cannot see him through the eyes of faith. So Jesus keeps moving, and he goes to a town called Galilee, to a region called Galilee to a town called Capernaum. And when he’s in Capernaum, he meets with a really, really important guy who I think is probably waiting for Jesus to get there.


Faith brings life into focus 


Jesus goes to Canaan, and while he’s in Canaan, in the region of Galilee near Capernaum, there’s a very important figure that’s waiting for Jesus when he gets there. And here’s what the Bible is telling us next: Faith starts to bring life into focus. You know you can still see stuff without glasses on, but it’s fuzzy. When you put glasses on, what’s fuzzy starts to become crystal clear, and you can start to make out the fine details.


Did you know that God created human life? He created human beings to be in a relationship with him. Without that relationship with him, without looking through the eyes of faith, life looks a little bit fuzzy. But when you put the glasses of faith on, now you can start to see all of the beautiful details about this human existence in a relationship with your Creator that God created you to have. You just can’t see it without looking through the eyes of faith.


And there’s a guy who shows up who is struggling with his faith because he is in a really desperate situation. Listen to what the Bible tells us this next. It picks up at verse 46. It says:


John 4:46-48 For they also had gone to the festival. He went again to Cana of Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. There was a certain royal official whose son was ill at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea into Galilee, he went to him and pleaded with him to come down and heal his son, since he was about to die. Jesus told him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.”

If you remember back a couple of sermons ago, Jesus performs a great miracle here and turns water into wine. This is the same town, and people are talking about this guy who turned water into wine. 


Now, I want to explain this phrase, royal official, because this is a really, really important dude. Probably this is a high-ranking Jewish official that has royal blood, meaning he is directly in line for the throne. He is a direct relation to King Herod Agrippa, who’s on the throne at this time. Or maybe he is such a high-ranking official that he’s in charge of the royal parts of the government. He’s a royal official, and no matter how powerful and how wealthy or how much resources this guy has at his disposal, he is desperate for Jesus right now. And you would be too if you were in this father’s shoes because he’s got a son that’s sick. Here’s what the Bible tells us next: He’s not just a little bit sick. This boy is on his death bed, which makes this dad desperate. 


This story the Bible is giving us is about what it looks like when a dad is desperate, and I mean so desperate that he will do whatever he’s got to do. So this very powerful, very important man, who everybody else in town probably gets out of his way when he walks down the streets, comes to Jesus, and he humbles himself and pleads with Jesus, “Jesus, I need you to stop what you’re doing, and I need you to come to my house because my boy is sick. And he’s not just a little bit sick, Jesus. I can’t fix him. The doctors can’t fix him. He is on his death bed sick. Jesus, I need your help.” 


And the Bible is describing for us a man who is grasping for anything that he can get to heal his son, and you would do the same thing as a mother or a father. I would do what this man is doing.


But the Bible is also describing for us that he’s struggling with who Jesus really is. In fact, Jesus’ response to him may sound a little bit rude to you because what Jesus says is, “Hey, all you people really want to see is a miracle.” I think what Jesus is saying is, “You’re not asking for the miracle worker; you’re asking for a miracle, and what God wants to give you is more than just a miracle. He wants to give you the miracle worker. He wants to give you his Son.” And this dad is struggling with believing who’s standing right in his midst.


This week, I need you to remember this, because this week when you get up, you’re going to be confronted with the same challenge that this man is confronted with: “Do I believe that what I see is all that exists? I’m struggling with my health, or I’m struggling in my marriage or I’m struggling with my business, and all that I see with my eyes, all that I can do with my hands, that’s all that there is. That’s all that exists.” Or do you have the ability to see with the eyes of faith? Specifically, do you have the ability to believe there is much more out there than what you can see with your eyes?


There is a whole spiritual world out there. And the one who created this physical world and created me, created that spiritual world, as well. When I see my problems, I don’t just look at it through physical eyes. No, when I see my problems, I can look at them through the eyes of faith, as well, which means I believe that there’s somebody in the middle of my problems who is good, who is higher than my mountains, who is able to handle my troubles and my struggles and my marriage is on the rocks, but I believe that Jesus can step in and can change things. My business is on decline, and it looks like I’m headed toward bankruptcy, but I believe that Jesus is bigger than the problems that my business is facing. I’m struggling with a health report that says things are not good and they’re looking really, really bad. 


Do you believe that there is somebody bigger than what you can see with your eyes, who has the ability to step in and to meet you right where your greatest need is? This guy is confronted with who’s standing right in front of his face.


Seeing always follows believing  


I want you to see what the Bible tells us next as we round out John chapter four. Look at what the Bible says to us, “When we see who Jesus really is…” And I just need to remind you that seeing always follows believing. Seeing always, always, always follows believing, and it doesn’t work the other way around.


I’ve got some good news for you. In your struggles, in your difficulties, it’s not all on you. You see, if you will take that first step of faith, if you will just simply believe, “God, I believe that you’re there. I believe that you’re good,” Hebrews chapter 11 says it this way: that you believe God and that you seek him, he rewards those who honestly believe him, who honestly seek him. 


So, when you’re facing your struggles, if you will just take that first step of faith, here’s the good news: He is there. He will meet you, and he will make a massive difference in your life. But you have to first take the step of faith. Faith first, seeing second. It always comes in that order. I’m going to read the remainder of John chapter four for us because here’s this man’s response to Jesus:


John 4:49-54 “Sir,” the official said to him, “come down before my boy dies.” “Go,” Jesus told him, “your son will live.” The man believed what Jesus said to him and departed. While he was still going down, his servants met him saying that his boy was alive. He asked them at what time he got better. “Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him,” they answered. The father realized this was the very hour at which Jesus had told him, “Your son will live.” So he himself believed, along with his whole household. Now this was also the second sign Jesus performed after he came from Judea to Galilee.



The Bible wants us to make no mistake about what happens in this man’s heart. -not with his eyes, but in his heart. First, he believes. Second, he sees the results or the reward of his belief. 


Now, I’m sure some of you who have read the Bible, you immediately picked up on what just happened here. You see, at this point, Jesus has performed a miracle before, but never while he was from a distance. Jesus can turn water into wine while he’s right in the room. And some people in Galilee started to believe that this man really had the power to do miracles, but at this point he’s only done miracles while he’s right there in the room. 


And now, Jesus just took believing to a whole ‘nother level, because he tells this father, “I don’t even need to go to your house. I don’t even need to be in your boy’s bedroom. You just go home, and I’m promising you, your son is healed.”


The Bible tells us that this man believed (listen to this) that not only did Jesus have the power to heal, but he could do it from a distance, that he didn’t even have to be in the same room when he healed this boy. And as the man starts to make his way home, he’s taken the step of faith, and now he gets a chance to see with his eyes, the reward for that faith. 


When he’s on his way home, his servants come out to meet him, and they say, “Hey Boss, you don’t have to bother the master anymore, you don’t have to bother the rabbi because your son has been healed.” And the dad already had it in his mind, “I can almost tell you exactly when this happened. It’s when I was talking to Jesus in Galilee.” The dad finds out that his son has been totally and completely healed, and Jesus is nowhere even close to his home when this happens.


Jesus is able to heal from a distance, your problems, your marriage. He will give you the reward of your faith. And one day, I’m promising you. I’m making a money back guarantee; you will see with your eyes the object of your faith. But you must first take the step of faith, and then God is there to meet you. He is there to work in your life after you take that first step of faith.


I’m going to wrap up with this. I still remember this vividly even though it’s been more than 30 years. When I went through free-fall school in the U.S. Army, my instructor was telling me about how this first free-fall jump was going to go, and me and another buddy were paired up together. We had one free-fall instructor that was going to jump with us for the first several jumps, just to be right next to us while we’re skydiving and to make sure that nothing goes wrong. And this free-fall instructor said to both of us, “Whatever you do, when you get in that airplane, when you’re flying in the air at the altitude that commercial aircraft fly at, when they drop the ramp and when you get ready to go and leave the ramp,” he said, “I’m going to tap you on the back of your parachute. And when I do, you don’t hesitate.” And then this is what he said next. I’ll never forget it: “Don’t look down.” 


I didn’t understand. I could get the “don’t hesitate” part because when you’re asking somebody to step off the back of an airplane that’s flying at the same altitude as commercial airliners and free-fall through the sky, it can be really intimidating. I understood why he said not to hesitate. But I really couldn’t recognize or understand why would this guy tell me, “Don’t look down.” 


So I asked him, “What’s the big deal about looking down?” And I still remember his answer to this day. He said, “Jeff, when people look down, they get fixated on the ground. They forget everything else that’s going on around them. They just see the ground, and they see the ground getting closer and getting bigger and they cannot understand or recognize anything else that’s going around them. 


And then he said, “This has not happened to me once or twice, but as a free-fall instructor, I have seen this many times. They get so fixated on the ground that they forget to pull their parachute. So, what I want you to do when you leave that airplane is look at me and focus on me and only on me. Don’t look down, and I will tell you when to pull your parachute. I will make sure that everything is okay, and I will tell you when to pull it your parachute.”


Do you know what this free-fall instructor was really asking of me? “Jeff, I want you to jump out of this airplane, trusting me and trusting that I’ve got everything under control. I’ll let you know when it’s safe to pull your parachute, and I’ll help get you safely to the ground. But don’t trust yourself, and don’t you look down. You take the step of faith and trust me, and I’ll make sure that everything goes okay.” 


But what God asks of people is to look with the eyes of faith, and he says, “If you will just take that first step like this father did with his son, if you will just take that first step, then I will meet you, and then I will step in and get involved. And I promise you, you will see with your own eyes the object of your faith, but you first must believe.”


The reason I can make that promise is, you might not see it here on Earth, but I promise you, you will see him one day in Heaven with your own eyes physically looking at the Son of God. Faith is the lens that lets you look directly at the Son and only the lens of faith.