Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way (the Doubter) by Pastor Abidan Shah

ENCOUNTERS: ENGAGING PEOPLE THE JESUS WAY – 3 by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

encounters3-doubterIntroduction: This is the third message in our series “Encounters: Engaging People the Jesus Way.” It’s about a well-to-do man who seemed to have it all until his little boy became gravely ill and only a miracle could save him. In desperation this man came to Jesus but he had a problem. He was a doubter. He had trouble believing in Jesus.

John 4   46 “…there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” 49 The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies!” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.”

Bridge: As many of you know, I am one of the chaplains at our local hospital. I get many interesting responses when I walk into a room. Here are the 3 common ones: first, the “praise Jesus” response – I can tell right away they love Jesus. They know that God will bring them through and they are glad to have me pray for them. I walk away blessed! Second, the “we’ve been out of church lately” response – they’re kind of glad I came but they feel embarrassed and guilty for neglecting God. Third is an interesting response. I call it the “I guess you couldn’t make it in to med school?” response. All smart Indians become medical doctors. What happened to you? They doubt anything that is not strictly medical and scientific. They see me as a hack, a shyster, and a con, who manipulates people’s insecurities for a living. Some of them don’t even want me to pray for them.

Context: The individual we’ll meet today would probably fall into this last category. Keep in mind that we’re examining 4 individuals between the two bracket verses in John 2:24-25 and John 5:34 and 41. So far we’ve examined the first two – Nicodemus, a religious man and the Samaritan woman, an outcast. Today we will look at the third one, a rich doubter and next weekend, the last one, a sick hopeless patient. Again, these were four very different people from different walks of life with different needs. Each of them had an encounter with Jesus, the Master Soul Winner. He met them right where they were, shared the gospel with them in a way they could understand, and left them transformed.

Question: Do you know some doubter in your life? Maybe it’s a family member, a son or daughter who went off to college and came back full of doubts. Maybe it’s a friend or a coworker that you get along with in every way except when it comes to your beliefs. This message will help you understand how to reach them. Maybe you are that person who is having trouble believing. You’re not saved. You need Christ. Or maybe you are saved but lately you’ve been struggling with doubts. This message is for you.

Let the Holy Spirit speak to you whomever you are:

I. WHO WAS THIS NOBLEMAN? 

46 “So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine.

Background: After leaving Samaria, Jesus continued north towards Cana of Galilee and word got out that Jesus, the miracle worker, had returned. “And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum.” In just that short statement we have plenty to create a profile of this man:

  • He was a Nobleman – The Greek word is “basilikos” which is an adjective that means “royal.” He was not a king because the designation would’ve been “basileus.” It implies that he worked for the king. Don’t misunderstand – he was much more than just a servant because he had servants, as will see later on. All this tells us that he was an important man.
  • He was from Capernaum – This also helps us to understand who was the king that he worked for. It could not be the Roman Emperor because Tiberius Caesar would not appoint someone that important and put him in Capernaum, a fishing town on the Sea of Galilee. More than likely, this was Herod Antipas, King Herod’s son, the tetrarch or administrator of Galilee. He was the one who fell in love with Herodias his half-brother Philip’s wife and John the Baptist called him out on his open adulterous behavior and Antipas had John thrown into prison. Later, he was so swept away by the provocative dance of Salome, Herodias’ daughter, that he gave the order to cut off John the Baptist’s head. If this nobleman worked for Antipas, more than likely he was like just his master – immoral, and cruel.
  • By the way, Jesus called Herod Antipas a “fox.” He tried to see Jesus and wanted to kill him. Later he mocked Jesus at the final trial. Again, if this man worked for Herod Antipas, just like his boss, he didn’t have a very high view of Jesus.
  • Listen to verse 47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him…” He went from Capernaum to Cana, which is about 16 miles, a day’s journey. It was uphill because Capernaum was about 700 feet below sea level. Maybe, he walked or maybe he rode his horse. Why? Because his boy was dying with some kind of fever. He may have been a bad person working for a bad man but he was a good father who loved his son and would do anything for him.

Do you know when most people look for God? When they are in some crisis – health, relationships, or finances.

Application: Do you know someone like that? They are confident and smug and self-sufficient until their world caves in. As they are sinking, they look up for someone to help them. This is not the time to pat them on the back and say – “Be patient. It’ll be okay. Just hang in there. Everything will be fine.” Be ready to throw them the rope of the gospel. Unfortunately, many Christians have played interference against me trying to reach such people in need with the gospel. This is the moment when you should let the Holy Spirit lead you to help them come to Christ.

II. HOW DID JESUS ENGAGE HIM?

47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” Jesus’ response sounds so out of character and even somewhat hateful and insensitive. Here’s a father coming to Him begging for healing for his son and Jesus seems to be having a bad day! What’s going on? Jesus knew the heart of this man. He saw his unbelief and hard-heartedness. So He confronted him with the truth about himself. You cannot come to Jesus with unbelief in your heart and expect Him to listen to you. Listen to Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

What is his response? 49 The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies!” Can you hear the change in his tone? Now he referred to Jesus as “Sir” or “Lord” or “Master.” Can you also see how he referred to his own son? He called him “my little child.” The Bible does not tell us the real reason why he came in the first place. Maybe his wife told him to or his parents (child’s grandparents) told him to or his friends told him to. Jesus wanted him to come because he wanted to.

Now listen to Jesus’ command: 50 Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your son lives.” It’s amazing how Jesus, the Master Soul Winner meets people right where they are! This man is used to ordering people and now Jesus ordered him. What is his response? “So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him…” By the way, did you notice the subtle change in the text? No longer is he referred to as a nobleman but simply as a man. Meaning: Your pedigree, your achievements, and your titles are nothing before God. “You are who you are by the grace of God.”

What’s next? “…and he went his way.” Meaning: He believed and obeyed. What if he hadn’t believed? What if hadn’t gone? Would his son still be healed? The answer is in the following verse – 51 And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, “Your son lives!” 52 Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 So the father… By the way, notice again the subtle change from just the “man” to the “father.” There is a softness coming in his demeanor. That’s what God does for us. 53 So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives.” Meaning: Yes his son would have been healed either way.

What’s the point? People get all bent out of shape when I say – “God does hear the prayers of unbelievers.” You can be lost and pray and if its in God’s will, He may answer you. Why does He do that? As Jesus said in Matthew 5:45, our Father in heaven “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” James 1:17 “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” Meaning: Anytime something good happens in this world, it is from the one and only living true God. Why does God do that? I have a theory. On the Day of Judgment when people will claim that if God had only done something good for them, they would’ve received Jesus. Then God will reveal to them how many times He blessed them and they still rejected Him. Every mouth will be silenced before Him.

How does it all end? “And he himself believed, and his whole household.” Crisis is the perfect opportunity to bring people to Christ, to turn their doubts into faith. Do you know someone like that? Pray for them. Are you that someone who is struggling with doubts? Bring your struggles to Him and try Him.

In closing, I don’t know about you but I’ve often wondered what happened to this man and his family from Capernaum. Did they continue in the faith? Did that little boy become a witness for Christ, maybe a leader in the church at Capernaum? In the gospels we find that initially Capernaum was the base of Jesus’s ministry in Galilee. Nicole and I have been there and seen Simon Peter’s house. This was where Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew to follow Him. He did many great miracles in this village. But sadly, His final words were not very promising. Matthew 11   23 And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you.”

Conclusion: I remember it just like yesterday. It was about 7 or so in the morning. Dad was shaving. I was getting ready for school. There was a knock on the door and this young man was standing there – “Pastor, please come quickly. My niece is dying. Not sure what’s happening but we need you to come and pray.” My dad didn’t even finish shaving and immediately went to the hospital. The family was in the waiting room, crying and sobbing. He walked into the room and there was the mom and dad weeping as they watched their little girl breathe her last breaths. The Holy Spirit led him to tell the parents to step out of the room with him. Then he told them – “I am here to pray for your child’s healing but before I do that, you need to surrender your lives to God wholeheartedly.” Between tears and cries, they promised and he prayed. As he was praying, they heard footsteps running and doctors and nurses flocking into the room. They thought it was all over. Few minutes later the doctor came out and said – “Not sure what’s going on but the fever’s gone, she’s sitting up, and asking for her parents.” Her first words were – “I’m hungry. Can I have some bread to eat?” It was an answer to prayers, a miracle. The couple thanked my dad and promised to be in church from that day on. They came the very next week, and then the next month, then a few more months, and then they came here and there. Then you would seem them once or twice a year. Finally, they stopped coming. Couple of years ago I asked my dad about that family. He told me that the girl is married and has children but they have no use for God. How typical of human beings…We get what we want from God and we conveniently forget to keep our word. If you are a believer living with doubts, look back and take an account of what God has done for you, from where He has brought you

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