Daily Reformation, John 4:46-54
From the Reformer
But what does it mean when he says: “Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God”, etc.? What are the mysteries? Shall one not know them, why then are they preached? A “mystery” is a hidden secret, that is not known: and the “mysteries of the kingdom of God” are the things in the kingdom of God, as for example Christ with all his grace, which he manifests to us, as Paul describes him; for he who knows Christ aright understands what God’s kingdom is, and what is in it. And it is called a mystery because it is spiritual and secret, and indeed it remains so, where the spirit does not reveal it. For although there are many who see and hear it, yet they do not understand it. Just as there are many who preach and hear Christ, how he offered himself for us; but all that is only upon their tongue and not in their heart; for they themselves do not believe it, they do not experience it, as Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:14 says: “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God!” Therefore Christ says here: “Unto you it is given,” the Spirit gives it to you that you not only hear and see it, but acknowledge and believe it with your heart. Therefore it is now no longer a mystery to you. But to the others who hear it as well as you, and have no faith in their heart, they see and understand it not; to them it is a mystery and it will continue unknown to them, and all that they hear is only like one hearing a parable or a dark saying. This is also proved by the fanatics of our day, who know so much to preach about Christ; but as they themselves do not experience it in their heart, they rush ahead and pass by the true foundation of the mystery and tramp around with questions and rare foundlings, and when it comes to the test they do not know the least thing about trusting in God and finding in Christ the forgiveness of their sins.
—Martin Luther, Assorted Sermons, “The Parable of the Sower”
Pulling It Together
The “fanatics of our day” insist on the outward show of religion. And so, their followers see this as a sign of truth. Later, when the outward sign is removed, nothing remains. There is no inner strength of character, no trust in God, no peace or comfort—for their faith was in the sign, not in the Savior. Contrast this with the nobleman in today’s text: he went out to ask Jesus for the healing of his son. The Lord used this request to chastise us all, saying we refuse to believe without a miracle in view. Evidently, the nobleman took this to heart, for when Jesus then casually says to go away, for your son lives, the man takes him at his word. He did not see the miracle but he believed the One who claimed it accomplished. He placed his faith in the Savior—not the sign—and so, believing was seeing.
© Mark E. Ryman, Daily Reformation: Devotions with the Reformers