Talk 1: God’s timing is perfect. John 4 v 43-54 Last Sunday, we looked at how Jesus demonstrated how to talk to strangers about God. But how do we know beforehand if the person with whom we have the deep conversation with has been prepared by the Holy Spirit and has a heart open to receive the things of God? This morning, we are going to look at how we can move in line with God’s Spirit. Let us concentrate now on this tale of a royal official. He was in service in the court of King Herod Antipas and was possibly a Gentile. This man had made a journey of over twenty miles to find Jesus. His son was deathly ill, and it must have been with great trepidation that he had set out to walk that long journey. Would his son still be alive when he returned? It may have been that he had thought of sending a servant to ask Jesus instead, but he had to do something! Well, he finds Jesus, manages to push through the crowds surrounding Jesus and tells Him his need. Does Jesus reply with kind words, come in haste to visit the dying son and touch him to heal him-maybe that is the scenario that in the official’s most optimistic moments plays out in his head? No, the man had begged for Jesus’ help, but it appears at first that Jesus is more concerned with having a go at the crowd than with acceding to his request. Again, the man begs Him to help and then Jesus at last speaks to him, a few curt words which in the original are vaguer than it is translated in the NIV and that is all the man has to go on. ‘Your son is fine’-no great demonstration, no promise to come back with him. The key words for me are in v 50 - ‘The man took Jesus at His word and departed’, started to make the journey home and as he neared his house, he received the message that his son had got better at just the time Jesus had said those words to Him! We can assume that quite probably, if the man had not made the journey that his son would have died, but what if he had not taken Jesus at His word, had stayed to argue, to continue to implore Him to return with him? What then? Perhaps his son may still have been healed, but look, what else happens- v53 ‘the official and his whole household believed’. Not only had they received their son back from the dead, but also, they had come to recognise that Jesus was the Messiah and put their faith in Him, just as the disciples had done after they had witnessed Jesus turning the water into wine. John 2 v 11. Let us explore the steps the official took to faith and see what this says to us today. 1. There was desperation-this man of standing grovelling before Jesus, this was a man who loved his son! 2. There was faith - his long walk to find Jesus. 3. Testing-the words of Jesus could have put less desperate souls off. 4. Perseverance-just as with the Syro-Phonecian woman in Mark 7 v 24-30, he continued to plead for Jesus’ help in the face of seeming intransigence. 5. There was the extraordinary belief that Jesus could heal from a vast distance. 6. There was faith confirmed, deepened, and made complete by the news that Jesus’ words had power. His belief in Jesus’ healing power led to a belief in the efficacy of His word alone, which led to a belief with no qualifiers, wholly for Jesus! Has your belief in Jesus altered your life, changed your way of thinking? Are you like the royal official or are you one of the Galilean crowds? Have you come to know Jesus in a vaguely interested way and you keep coming because you may see something spectacular? Or maybe you have come to experience the spectacular in your own life? There is nothing wrong in that, but there may be a hard road to follow before that happens-the equivalent of the long anxious journey of this man followed by not receiving the answer to your prayers that you thought would come? You may be walking in the dark right now, feeling that you are drowning; you scream out to God, but He doesn’t seem to be listening, that sense of His presence that you used to experience has gone-Mother Teresa’s ten years of the dark night of the soul. Jesus waits to respond to you, but God’s timing is perfect and not always what we think it is. Think of the long wait of Jesus after he heard that his friend Lazarus was ill-John 11 v 6. Part 2: John 4 v 26-42 I would like to round up this study of the first four chapters of John by looking at the aftermath of Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman. John’s Gospel is extremely exciting and even though there had been a long period between these events occurring and John writing about them, you can feel John’s excitement too as he writes about the man who transformed his life and the lives of many others too, who proved far greater than even the most spectacular ideas of the Messiah. It is interesting that Jesus chose to reveal His identity to this woman when He had kept it hidden from many others. Perhaps He knew that she was outside the framework of Jewish religion and all its restrictions and judgmentalism. What do we learn from this passage? 1. The Holy Spirit is at work in ways which will often shock us and often in ways beyond our comprehension. Who of the disciples would have thought that a routine walk would produce such fruit? Who would have thought that this woman was the ‘person of peace’? EXPLAIN 2. The power of testimony. Nobody can gainsay your testimony! So, this seemingly outcast person had far more influence in her village than she or anyone else, apart from Jesus, had thought. Beware passing people over, thinking that they are of no import. The Holy Spirit leads us to those He chooses, and we are called to respond to His guidance. Do not ever look down on anyone! 3. Jesus has time. Despite His commitment to return to Galilee, Jesus has time to spend two days in the Samaritan village. Do we have too full an agenda that we cannot be side-tracked? I am incredibly grateful to this church because there are enough free moments in my weeks so I can respond to those who are struggling or those who want to ask the deep questions. Thank you! 4. You do not know whether you will be the planter or the harvester, but without the planter the harvester is wasting his time! My coming to know Jesus at the age of eleven was in one sense the result of good Gospel preaching from a man I greatly respected as having played for Liverpool’s reserve team. However, there were many others along the line who showed me Jesus. 5. We all need to have a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. From hearing the woman’s testimony, the inhabitants of this village had to make the decision for themselves to worship Jesus as the Messiah. There is a challenge for us all. Yes, Christianity is moral and ethical and a good way to live, but-far more than that-it is about knowing Jesus, being involved in a personal relationship of love with the living God! So, to go back to the question: How do you know if someone is hungry for God? One of the core characteristics of our God is justice. The ones He draws near to are those who are hungry for justice. Today, we have looked at a man in authority desperate for his child’s healing and a doubly outcast Samaritan woman. We can trust that the Holy Spirit will lead us to those most desperate and in need of His healing grace, but are we prepared to seek those out? What are you doing actively to be in a situation to bring the Good News to those who cannot see anything good in life?