Team Hoyt consists of a father and a son. Together, Dick and Rick Hoyt race. And they race a lot. They have completed 64 marathons, 206 triathlons, 6 Ironman triathlons and 204 10K runs. Since 1975, these two have crossed over 1,000 finish lines. They’ve even crossed the United States.
That thing about this team … only half of Team Hoyt can run. Dick, the dad, is the runner. Rick, the son, he can’t. Rick can’t run because his legs don’t work. When he was born in 1962, the umbilical cord was wrapped around Rick’s neck, starving his brain of oxygen stealing away coordination from his body.
Rick can’t bathe, he can’t dress or feed himself. But Rick can think. Rick graduated from high school and college. But one of the things he wanted the most was to run. Dick though wasn’t a runner … but he was a father. So what did he do … he loaded his son into a wheel chair and off they went. Since 1975, the two of them haven’t stopped running.
Rick, he relies on his dad to do it all. His dad has to lift him, push him, pedal him, and tow him. Rick depends entirely on the love and strength of his father. That’s a very good way to describe Christ’s second miracle found in John’s Gospel. The son depends entirely on the love and strength of his father.
And this father is frantic! “There was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum” (John 4:46). This father, as a royal official, is one of the most powerful men in Galilee. He’s an important government official who, in spite of his wealth and influence, is brought down to his knees when his son becomes sick with a fever and arrives at death’s door.
But as this father watches his son get worse and worse, edging ever closer to death, there’s this unexpected ray of hope. The father hears that Jesus is in Cana where he had recently changed water into wine. As soon as the father hears about this, he takes off, leaving his son behind to go to Cana. He goes to frantically look for Jesus so that he could bring Jesus to Capernaum and heal his son.
To truly understand the desperation of the father, we need to look understand the geography of this area. Cana is about 20 miles from Capernaum. It’s also 3,000 feet above sea level. Capernaum is on the Sea of Galilee and is about 600 feet below sea level. The 20 miles from Capernaum to Cana is all uphill, 3,600 feet uphill!
What hill are you climbing? What has your stomach churning, burning, and cramping? What’s happening that makes you feel as though there are a thousand knives slicing and splitting your heart and life apart? Is it bad blood within your family? A bad back or other ache in your body? A bad rap at work? A bad break in finances?
Absolutely exhausted by his 20 mile, 3,600 feet climb, all of it being uphill … the father finally reaches the village of Cana. He follows the crowd and finally gets to Jesus. Dropping to his knees, hunched over, out of breath, this father begs Jesus to come back with him to Capernaum and heal his son. Trying to catch his breath, we can see the father say … “We. Have. To. Go. Now!”
But Jesus stops and gives a very strange answer. “Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe” (John 4:48). Jesus doesn’t talk directly to the father, instead he talks directly to all the people … all the people … which includes us. Jesus points out that the mistake we all make is that we think seeing is believing. If I can see it, then I can believe it.
That’s me. About a third of my life has been spent living in Missouri. Missouri is the what? “The Show Me State”! “Lord, show me!”
And that’s the royal official. He doesn’t deny the fact about seeing is believing. His only concern is making sure that his son doesn’t die. “The royal official said, ‘Sir, come down before my child dies.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go! Your son lives’” (John 4:49-50). The father wants Jesus to come with him back to Capernaum to heal his son … but Jesus says … “That’s not necessary. Your son is healed.”
Now the father has a decision to make … does he take Jesus at his word, or … or does he keep on begging Jesus to come to Capernaum with him? Can this father trust that his son is healed without Jesus coming to his house, simply because Jesus said so? Or does the father have to see it for himself before he believes it. “Lord, show me!”
The frantic father … has a fantastic faith. The man “took Jesus at his word and departed” (John 4:50). The father believes Jesus and heads for home. John 20:29 says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” That’s what faith looks like. Faith is believing when I don’t see. Faith is believing when I don’t feel. Faith is believing when I don’t understand one single bit.
And faith is the great goal of John’s Gospel. “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).
Jesus comes to plant faith in us, a faith which takes him at his Word. A faith that isn’t overcome with worry and high anxiety. A faith which doesn’t have to see, feel, or understand one single bit.
“While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, ‘The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.’ Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live’” (John 4:51-53).
The father was so confident in Christ’s Word that he didn’t rush home but took his sweet time. Notice when he runs into his servants on the road … the next day, as signaled by the word “yesterday.” When this father meets his servants, who have left the son and came looking for him, they tell him, “Your son is healed! He didn’t die! He’s healthy again!” The father asks, “When did my boy start to improve?” The servants answer, “Yesterday, about 1:00 pm, his fever broke.”
“Yesterday.” That’s the key word. It’s probably a four to five hour walk back to Capernaum from Cana. It’s all downhill, 3,600 feet downhill, which would make it easier. I would think that as soon as Jesus told this frantic father to go home because his son is fine that he would have raced back as quick as possible to see if it was true, which would have gotten him home about 5 or 6 pm in the evening that same day. He would have been home before the servants would have left to look for him.
But the dad doesn’t arrive that afternoon or even that evening. His servants don’t meet him on the road until the next day! There was hurry, no urgency to get home. That’s a sign of fantastic faith! “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Christian faith isn’t this pie-in-the-sky kind of faith. It’s not knock-on-wood faith. Christian faith has a firm foundation! And what is that foundation? “Your son lives” (John 4:50, 51, 53). Everything Jesus says is true. Let me say it again … everything Jesus says is true. Absolutely everything. That’s our firm foundation of faith. But there’s more!
How so? There’s another Son in John’s Gospel who also lives! Only this Son actually died. He was arrest abruptly, tried unjustly, sentenced callously, mocked repeatedly, abandoned ruthlessly, beaten brutally, and crucified barbarously. But … but … this Son, Jesus, he lives. Christ is risen from death triumphantly!
Christian faith has a firm foundation … everything Jesus says is true and Jesus is real, Jesus is alive. That means no matter how weak you are right now, Christ’s strengthen is sufficient for right now. No matter how bad you are, Christ’s grace is enough right now. No matter how big your problem is … Christ’s power is bigger … right now.
We often feel like the father did at the beginning of the lesson, don’t we? We feel frantic, frenzied, and freaked out! Everything is uphill! Maybe we’re facing the fact that we can’t handle it all by ourselves. Maybe we’re losing confidence in ourselves and are realizing we need help. If that is where you are today … that’s good. That’s good because that’s where faith is always born. Faith is born when we stop trusting ourselves and begin trusting Jesus.
What does this kind of faith look like? It’s like this … Real, saving faith relies on our heavenly Father to do it all … to lift us, to push us, pedal us, tow us, forgive us and empower us. This faith depends entirely on the love and strength not of you, but of our heavenly Father who will most certainly push us across the finish line … every single time. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.