Five Hundred Miles

I turned on the radio this morning and there was an old Proclaimers song playing. The words “but I’d walk five hundred miles and Id walk five hundred more, just to to be the man that walked a thousand miles to be the man to fall at your door,” followed by that chorus that we all know so well. I remember walking from West Hobart to my girlfriend’s place in the cold dead of night to knock on her bedroom window because I hadn’t said goodnight. The memory is still deep within me and when I hear that song, I am taken back to that night. It wasn’t five hundred miles, but I was on top of the world. People walk great distances for a cause. Some people even walk continents.
I wonder how far we would walk in faith for something. Would it be five hundred miles?
In John’s gospel the evangelist records Jesus’ second miraculous sign in Galilee. It is the story of a government official who had heard that Jesus was in Cana. His son was sick and he begged Jesus to come to Capernaum to heal him. Today it is a 36 kilometre walk, a walk of about eight hours. Cana is in the mountains and Capernaum by the side of the lake. He probably walked round the lake and then up a step ridge behind Tiberias and then across the ridges to Cana, where Jesus had performed his first miraculous sign: turning water into wine.
His walk was a walk of faith. Faith starts with believing. He believed before he started out that Jesus might be able to help his son. He had no guarantees that Jesus would intervene, but he went to find Jesus. He left his family and headed in that direction. When we go, we are not always certain of the final destination, but we set out in that direction.
For Chuza it was a new direction. He was part of Herod’s household. This Herod was the son of Herod the Great, the Herod who had tried to kill Jesus by slaughtering the children under the age of two in Bethlehem. Seeking this Jesus for healing for his son was a decision towards change, stemming from his belief that Jesus was able to heal. That is a substantial change in direction, a complete one eighty from a household who had wanted to get rid of Jesus. What we believe sets our direction in life. What we believe about Jesus sets our approach to Him.
What do you believe about Jesus? How have you got him pegged? Who do you say Jesus is?
I’m sure that this man was not certain he would have had Jesus’s exact location. He had heard that Jesus was back in Galilee and so that was where he headed off for. So often in our lives, we are not certain of the final destination, but we know the general direction. We set our sights on a trip to Chicago or Bali. What we believe about that place and what we will do there gives us a perspective. In the same way what do you believe about Jesus? Is He able to heal? Is He able assist you? Is that something that you make your own?
He might have heard that Jesus had healed others. He took what he heard Jesus had done for others and made it his own. This man was willing to act on his belief. He appropriated what he heard about Jesus for himself and his situation. His faith was personal. It is easy to hear things about Jesus, but it is an entirely different thing to believe that Jesus will act on our behalf. I often find that hard; I can believe for others, but it is much harder when it is personal, when what I believe will affect others in my family. Unless we make our belief our own, they are just words in the air or words on a page.
Not only did he believe that Jesus could heal his son and not only did he make it personal, but he started to act on his belief. He gathered what he would need for the journey and set off. He didn’t set out on this journey lightly. A couple of days journey into the mountains was a serious undertaking. He would need appropriate clothing, footwear, food, money, a donkey or horse to carry things on and perhaps organise somewhere to stay. These are not the actions of someone who just believes with his mind. His belief becomes action. A challenge I constantly face is are my actions in line with what I believe and say I believe? I can say I love my partner and cherish our home, but if I don’t actually show it in a tangible way, then my words are empty. Faith is the same. What I believe must make me act. Are you putting into practice what you believe? Are there things you need to do rather than just ascribe to? If you believe you can make a difference in someone’s life, are you actually doing anything about it? Are you living proof of what you believe?
Another thing about this man was that he would have had to seek out Jesus on his journey. He went in the general direction of Cana and sought out the Master Healer. I’m sure he would have had to ask for assistance of others as he went on his journey. “Is he here? IS the Master here?” he would have asked on his way. In the same way I have people around me who help me find the master for myself. I have friends who can point me on the way. It is better to have others around us supporting us on our journey of faith. It may mean joining a life group and sharing your deepest needs with others. There are those around us all who will assist us in our journey of faith.
As he came before Jesus, he laid out his deepest desire: that his son would be healed. He had believed that Jesus could heal, he set a direction and came before the Master and said, “Lord, please come now, before my son dies.” He believed that Jesus would act immediately in response to his request. I sometimes find it hard to believe that God will act now. His immediate action, I often don’t ask for. This man believed that Jesus would act now, not later. I struggle with that at times. I believe in a God who will intervene, but am I bold enough to ask for him to act now?
The other thing I can learn from this man is that he rested in what Jesus said. He was told “go back home, your son will live.” Jesus said it, so he believed. We are told that he believed and started home. He had no evidence that his son was healed, but he believed.
So many things of faith are a certainty of things to come. So often I hear whispers: “God cannot forgive that”, or ”You are not good enough for God to act for you.” When I have doubts or fears, I need to rest in what Jesus has said about it. I have to look at what Jesus says and believe and act on it. This man’s actions showed what he believed. It doesn’t record any doubts from him. The human side of me thinks he may have had doubts on the way, but he stayed the course. He held onto what Jesus said. In the same way I need to hold on to what Jesus says about me. My beliefs must affect the way I live and what I do.
I’m sure he sang another proclaimers song on his way back.
I’m on my way from misery to happiness today
I’m on my way from misery to happiness today
I’m on my way to what I want from this world

Written by Pete Swift

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