(NRSV) Jesus Returns to Galilee
John 4:43 When the two days were over, he went from that place to Galilee 44 (for Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in the prophet’s own country). 45 When he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the festival; for they too had gone to the festival.
Jesus Heals an Official’s Son
46 Then he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capern-a-um. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my little boy dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. 51 As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, “Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.” 53 The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he himself believed, along with his whole household. 54 Now this was the second sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee.
My favorite gospel is the gospel of John. Matthew’s gospel was written to convince the Jews that Jesus was king. To me the highlights of Matthew was the Beatitudes, and of course the foretelling of the return of Jesus. Mark was written primarily to a Roman audience unfamiliar with Jewish customs. Mark was written in short, concise sentences because Mark’s primary concern was ensuring Jesus’ story was told. Luke was written to Gentiles and my favorite part is the Christmas story. The synoptic gospels shared parables that served to teach us how to follow Christ and live with our fellow man. But John, written by the disciple Jesus loved the best, showed us from the very first verse that Jesus is eternal. It is a personal gospel and includes 7 “I Am” statements and 7 miracles pre-resurrection and one, the gathering of 153 fish, post-resurrection.
The miracle of the healing of the official’s son was the second miracle recorded in John and, like the turning of the water into wine, also occurred in Cana.
46 Then he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum (Capern-a-um). Capernaum was about one day’s walk from Cana.
47 When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” Strongs Dictionary translates this phrase unless you see to unless you people see. Jesus was aware that many people were following him solely for signs and wonders, and he knew that miracles did not lead to salvation. But it seems a little less harsh to me to hear that Jesus was directing comment not to this grieving father, but instead to really a generation of people.
49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my little boy dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way.
There are two important ideas here. The first is that the official, being a day away from his son, believed Jesus was limited by time and place. He could not understand how a miracle could occur unless Jesus was in the child’s presence to lay hands upon the boy.
I am reminded of what Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, said when Jesus arrived seemingly too late to save Lazarus from death. She said, if only you had been here my brother would not have died, and then Martha repeated the same sentiment. And do you remember what Jesus said?. (NRSV)John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.“
They simply could not understand that Jesus had no such limitations as time and place.
50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way.
So remember the first idea was that the man thought Jesus was limited by time and place. But the second important idea is that, in a startling turnaround, the official believed and began his return journey.
In each miracle we have studied, we have seen that the people in need required just enough faith to ask for help. Jesus did not seek after those who needed a miracle. Why? Because Jesus was here to seek and save the lost. Yet, he was available to many who needed a miracle, and as is recorded in the last verse of John 21:25 (NRSV) 25 But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.
Signs and wonders from God are obviously good things, but they should not form the foundation of our faith. We should not depend on them to prove God to us. In themselves, signs and wonders cannot change the heart; Israel saw incredible signs at Mount Sinai and even heard the very voice of God (Exodus 19:16-20:1), yet a short time later they worshipped a gold calf (Exodus 32:1-6).
Notice the nobleman did not ask for Jesus’ help on the basis of his station in life. Instead, he was asking for mercy because of the child’s great need. And when Jesus said “your child is healed”, the father did not require any further proof. The father’s belief spread throughout the entire household. I love that. The faith of the father was so strong that he was able to share that faith with his family and those who worked in the household to the point that they all received salvation.
I’ve heard it said the man ran to Cana in fear, but he walked back to Capernaum in faith. May we each walk in the same faith every day of our lives.
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