Martin franzmann, the author of this morning’s first hymn and a long-time professor in our Synod, called the man in today’s Gospel “the man who went home with only a word in his pocket.” I think this does more to help us understand today’s Gospel and its importance than anything else. The nobleman is a reminder to us, an encouragement to us, to live by faith alone, faith in the strong Word of God. He went home with only the Word, only a promise. His faith was rewarded with fulfillment. May God grant us all such a faith that endures all things, content with only a Word in our pocket and nothing more!
Today’s Gospel is one of the most relatable accounts in Holy Scripture. We can sympathize with the difficult situation of the official. He needed something badly. He wanted the reassurance that Jesus heard him, cared, and would do something about his son’s deadly illness. He pleads with Jesus twice to come with him, but He will not. He sends the official home with only a word in his pocket. He doesn’t have Jesus in tow, he does not have an antidote for death. He has only a word. Through this official, Jesus teaches us to have faith in His unfailing Word. He is faithful and He will do what He says.
What is faith? We talk a lot about it. We know that it is necessary for salvation, because faith is that conduit that delivers to us all that Christ did for us on the cross. We know that it is created by the Holy Spirit working through the Word. We know that it is strengthened through the Sacraments. We know that it is what motivates our good works towards God and neighbor. But what is faith?
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.