Sermon Illustration: Recommitted?
Studying for this week’s sermon on the Second Sign of Jesus from John 4:43-54, I came across the following story from this commentary.
During my first semester in seminary a professor told me a remarkable story from his early years as a pastor. A young woman had become critically ill and her prognosis was grim; she would likely die within the year. Her family had a nominal “Easter and Christmas Eve” commitment to the church, so the discussions in the hospital between this young pastor and this family always plowed new ground. The woman challenged him: If Jesus healed in the Bible, he should be able to heal me today. If not, what use was he?
So she prayed. The pastor prayed. The whole family prayed and pleaded and begged and bargained. If God would only show mercy, the family urged, they would completely recommit themselves and come to church every Sunday. This earnest young pastor prayed with all his heart. He refused to join the ranks of those who said, “If it is thy will.” It was God’s will that she be healed, he concluded.
Then to his amazement, God healed her completely. And with the physicians shaking their heads, she was sent home from the hospital. Next Sunday, the entire family was there in the front pew, dressed and sparkling. The young woman gave her testimony, praising God for his goodness. The following Sunday, the family was there again. In four weeks, it was only the woman and her husband. And after that, attendance was sporadic until they dropped into their previous pattern. Before long, the woman rationalized the entire
incident. She had experienced the most dramatic sign God could give her: healing, bathed in prayer and surrounded by the church. But after only two months, its power dimmed to nothing.
This is not to say that miraculous signs have no place in the ministry of the church. They do. But John 4:43–54 suggests to us that they have a limited scope and usefulness. E. Schweizer once wrote, “The false component here does not consist in that he [the royal official] is not at all interested in Jesus himself, only in something to be obtained through him.” This is where the story finds its deepest meaning.
This begs the question: Why do YOU follow Jesus? For what He can do for you, or because of who He is?