Peter Misselbrook's Blog
May 6 2013 - John 4:43-54 – Your son will live

The story in today's passage is simple and straightforward. A ruler in Galilee had a child who was seriously ill and on the point of death. He came to Jesus, begging him to heal his son. Jesus' initial reply seems dismissive, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe" (John 4:48). But when the man again begged Jesus to save his son, Jesus did so with a word, "Go, your son will live" (4:50). At that very moment the fever left his son and he began to recover.

It's a simple story, but it’s one that is deeply perplexing. We have some friends whose daughter was very ill. Many of us were praying for her – praying daily; praying fervently – but she seemed to get no better. Another mutual friend told us that she got angry with God, telling him it's about time he did something to heal the child. Our experience seemed so far removed from that of the ruler who came to Jesus asking for his son to be healed. Jesus' initial comment that the people of Galilee only believed because they saw signs, seems to rebound upon us; how can we believe that God hears and answers prayer when he does nothing despite our cries to him?

There are many things that perplex us and we have many unanswered questions. Pete Greig wrote the book God on Mute out of the painful experience of unanswered prayer concerning his wife’s chronic illness. From the things that the Lord taught him through this experience he has been able to minister to many others in similar situations. He writes:

"I don't know why your prayers haven't been answered. But I do know that the very best thing about our lives – the most incredible thing we've got going for us – is that the Creator of a million stars is entirely and eternally good, that He is utterly caught up in the details of our situation, and that He cares for us more than we care for ourselves."

The most perplexing thing of all is that God should love us so much that he sent his Son to save us. The most amazing thing is that Jesus went to the cross for us. If God did not spare his own Son, we can be confident of his love for us. And it is this confidence that keeps us pleading for his mercy upon those we love, even when prayer seems to go unanswered.

We know also that one day Jesus shall come to put all things right. When he appears there will be no more sickness, disability or pain. Hurt and injustice will flee away and the tears will be wiped from every eye. In that day, the last enemy, death, will be destroyed and we shall enter into the liberating joy and fullness of resurrection life. 

And so we live now in the hope of that day. Sometimes our prayers go unanswered. Those we love not only suffer sickness, they may be taken from us by death. But they are taken only that they might one day be returned to us perfectly well and fully alive. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead underwrites our hope that “All shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Risen Lord Jesus, I pray for those who are suffering from disease, hunger and injustice. Lord, heal this broken world and turn tears into laughter even as you will do in the day of your coming. And in this meantime help me to bring healing to those who suffer, comfort to those who mourn, light to those who walk in darkness and hope to those who feel the weight of despair.

Peter Misselbrook