"The man took Jesus at his word and departed." (John 4:50) How extraordinary! Having reflected that a prophet is not accepted in his own country, having opined that without signs and wonders the people would not believe, Jesus is now faced with a man who simply takes him at his word and, believing that his request for healing had been heard and acted upon, simply departs and heads for home. How extraordinary indeed.
When I was a boy I accompanied my grandfather, lovingly called Pop by us grandkids, on an errand in which he promised to do a piece of work for a man. He gave the man his word that the work would be completed by a certain time and they shook hands on the arrangement.
In the car on the way home, he asked me if I had noticed what he had done.
"Yes sir," I said, "You gave him your word and you shook hands."
"That’s right," he said,
Then, this man of few words continued, "You won’t hear me say the words 'I promise' much because because once you make a promise you’re bound by it. You won’t see me give my hand and shake on something often because once a man gives his hand on something he is bound to it. Do you understand?"
I said, "Yes sir," but I really didn’t, at least not at that moment.
But I think I do now and I think I have understood for a long time now, now that I am older at this moment than he was when he spoke the words and now that my own grandkids call me Pop.
I think if you want to be a man or woman who is taken at their word you have to be a man or woman of your word and you have to be that when the rituals of giving your word and your hand are enacted and even more important when they are not. You simply have to say what you mean and mean what you say, period.
Lord Jesus that clearly is how you are depicted in all the gospels. Lord Jesus that is clearly how you were. Lord Jesus that is clearly how you are.
And, Lord Jesus, you are the Father's Word given to us and for us carried down the centuries on the wind and breath of the Spirit who thunders and whispers the Fathers Promise spoken in and through you until the end of time.
Lord Jesus, how often do I simply take you at your word? How often do I simply take you at your word that the Kingdom is at hand, right here and right now? How often do I seek what at this moment seems to me like endless, pathetic reassurance rather than simply taking you at your word and walking back into my life and daily living believing that what you have told me, what you have told us, is simply true?
Lord Jesus, help me to take you at your word. Help me to take you at your word that while you are engaged in cosmic events and issues it still matters to you whether one man’s son lives or dies. Help me to take you at your word that I matter and that those I love matter. Help me to take you at your word that the family across the street matters. Help me to take you at your word that the poor matter and the middle class matter and even the rich matter to you and therefore should matter to me.
Lord Jesus, help me to take you at your word that the church matters. The whole church, the parts of the church right down to the little bits of church I belong to and that people I love belong to. Help me to take you at your word that you will be with your church always even until the end of days. Help me to believe that the Holy Spirit guides and governs the church in this our day, my day, as in all days before and all days yet to come.
Lord help me to take you at your word that you are at work in the world around me. In the natural order, in the social order, in the political order even. Help me to take you at your word.
Lord Jesus, help me to take you at your word that, "(Since) what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities -- His eternal power and divine nature –have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." (Romans 1: 19-20). Help me to see you in all things, find you in all things, and to be found by you and be seen by you in all the tings of my life day by day.
Lord Jesus, help me to take you at your word that you are coming again because you are already come in the Kingdom that is already come near day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment.
Lord Jesus, help me to take you at your word that we, that I, am to simply take up my cross day by day and follow you and to trust in you for the rest.
Lord Jesus, help me to take you at your word that you are indeed "God with us," and then simply to live, not as if that were true, but rather to live within that truth.
Lord Jesus, help me this lent to simply take you at your word.