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We are back into our series on the Gospel of John and today we are up to the story where Jesus heals the official’s son, in chapter 4:46-54. You can follow along on the handout you have, or you can open your bibles as we go through this.

I trust that God has something really good for each of you this morning and I hope you will listen and be alert to it, so that you can receive it.

By way of review, after talking to Nicodemus, Jesus left Jerusalem for the Judean countryside where his disciples baptized many people. Then he purposed to go to Galilee, but on the way went to Samaria and talked to the Samaritan woman and also the Samaritan village of Sychar. And now he has come back to Galilee and specifically back to Cana.

Alright, let’s look at –

Our story

 46So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine.” Our story starts off harkening back to its parallel, when Jesus turned the water into wine, which also happened in Cana of Galilee. As you can see from your handout on an overview of John 2-4, these stories function as bookends to this section of John. (They are twins in these ways: There are several inclusion markers – “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did . . .” – 2:11; “This was now the second sign that Jesus did . . .” – 4:54. “Cana in Galilee” – 2:1, 4:26. 4:46 refers back to the making of wine in Cana. Both happen after a chronological note of two days – “On the third day” – 2:1; “after the two days” – 4:43. Additional parallels between both stories: 1. a need is expressed – for wine, for healing. 2. Jesus offers some resistance – “what does this have to do with me?” – 2:4; “unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe” – 4:48. 3. Faith in his power persists – “do whatever he tells you” – 2:5; “come down before my child dies” – 4:49. 4. Both focus on Jesus’ word – “do whatever he tells you” – 2:5; “the man believed the word that Jesus spoke.” – 4:50 5. Jesus responds differently than asked – he does a miracle behind the scenes on his own terms; he doesn’t come with the man but heals the boy from a distance. 6. Servants are involved in both stories. 7. Faith is noted at the end of each story – “his disciples believed in him” – 2:11; “he himself believed and all his household” – 4:53. With thanks to Ben Witherington for several of these.)

“And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill.” Capernaum, on the Sea of Galilee, was about 15 miles away, close to a day’s walk.

The word for “official” is better translated as “royal official.” He probably worked for Herod Antipas. It’s possible that he was a Gentile, but this point isn’t made in the story. Although, working for Herod would make him suspect to devout Jews. He would have been well to do, or upper class. He was an aristocrat. As we will see, he has servants – v. 51.

Beyond being “ill” we don’t know exactly what his son’s condition was, except that he was “at the point of death” – vs. 47; 49; and he had a “fever” – v. 52.

47When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.”

So he has heard about Jesus, most likely from some of the Galileans who had seen Jesus’ public miracles in Jerusalem a few days before (4:45; 2:23). He comes to Jesus based on his reputation as a miracle worker. Can you put yourself in his place? You have child who is about to die and no one can help and so he comes to Jesus in hope. His request is for Jesus to come to Capernaum and heal his son. 

48So Jesus said to him, ‘Unless *you all see signs and wonders you will not believe.’” This response of Jesus is somewhat unexpected and jarring. But do notice that the “you” is plural here – “you all.” No doubt a crowd was around Jesus in Cana, so he is saying this to them as well. Perhaps the crowd wanted to see miracles in Galilee like he did in Jerusalem. (This might be behind their exuberant welcome of him in v. 45.)  They want to see their native son do miracles in Galilee as well. After all, his miracle in Galilee, turning water to wine, was a private miracle. They didn’t see it.

Jesus is here confronting mere “signs faith” among Galileans. This is a faith that is based on seeing miracles. Jesus, if you do miracles we will believe in you, Prove yourself to us! And even keep proving yourself to us with more and more miracles.

So although Jesus did miracles to create faith, it seems most often that such “signs faith” didn’t lead to its intended goal of real faith in Jesus. It didn’t lead people to understand what the signs point to – that Jesus is the eternal Son of God and that he has come to give eternal life, not just healings for this current life.

And so Jesus is challenging the man here , “Do you also just want to see if I can do a miracle?”

49The official said to him, ‘Sir, come down before my child dies.’” The man is undeterred by Jesus’ words. He repeats his urgent request.

50Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your son *lives.’ The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.” Jesus responds to him in such a way as to give him an opportunity to move beyond mere “signs faith.” He asks him to believe without first seeing the miracle.

And the man does believe, not based on seeing a sign, but based on Jesus’ word to him. He heard Jesus’ word and he acted on it. This is true faith. His son was at the point of death and if this didn’t work this could be it. So he rests the life of his son in Jesus’ hands and heads back to Capernaum.

51As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his *child *lives. 52So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, ‘Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.’ 53The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son *lives.’”

So the man’s servants came to find him and tell him the good news and so they meet on the road. Between them they figure out that the boy was healed just when Jesus said that he was well – at 1:00 PM. So Jesus spoke in Cana and it happened in Capernaum, 15 miles away, right when he spoke.

Now at this time and perhaps still today, healing at a distance was thought to be harder than healing in close proximity. And this helps us understand why John included this as a “sign.” He only narrates exceptional miracles, the best of the best, that point to Jesus’ glory. 

“And he himself believed, and all his household.” His faith was confirmed. He heard Jesus’ word and he acted on this and now he has seen the result. He knows that Jesus is the one who gives life by his mere word. 

And his faith spreads. All his household believed . This would include his wife, children and servants. They believed based on his testimony about Jesus. [Most often a household would share the faith of the head of the household.]

This story illustrates how Jesus’ signs are supposed to work . They are to lead people to true faith in Jesus.

Our story ends – 54This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.”

[There are some parallels between this story and 1 Kings 17:17-24: the son of an outcast; the son died (or ill, no breath); Elijah prayed three times – “let child’s life come into him again”; the son is healed; he says, “see your son lives”; the woman acknowledges Elijah’s identity, “now I know you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is true.”]

[Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10 and this story are not the same. The encounter with the royal official takes place in Cana not Capernaum; the boy is called a son and his child (paidion) and so pais must mean child, not servant here. ; the main focus of the story in the Synoptics is the Gentile’s faith whereas in John the focus inJesus.]

Some gleanings for us

1. The unlikely ones often respond to Jesus. This continues the theme developed with the Samaritan woman and the contrast there with Nicodemus. The royal official worked for Herod Antipas. He was possibly a Gentile. He was most likely not a devout Jew. These were all negatives. But he and his family responded with true faith in Jesus.

Let’s keep this in mind as we work at VBS this week. Who do you think is unlikely to respond? The disruptive one? The inattentive one? This may well be the one that Jesus will touch. This may well be the one that gets it and comes to faith in Jesus. We don’t know. We are simply called to labor patiently in love to everyone.

2. The royal official is an example to us of faith. He came based on hearing about Jesus’ ability to heal – signs faith. But then when Jesus challenged him he responded and moved to a true faith that is based on Jesus’ word.

And like him we too need to hear Jesus’ words to us, whatever that may be this morning. What is he saying to you through his word? What has he been saying to you this past week, this past month? Where is he challenging you in an area of weakness or in an area where you need to step out it faith.

Wherever Jesus is speaking you us we need to act in faith, without first seeing the results. Right? This is how faith works. First we act on Jesus’ word in faith and then we see the results in our lives. And I can assure you that he will be there for you and come through for you as he did for the royal official. When we act on his word, like him, we will go on our way and find that his promises to us our true.

3. Nothing is too difficult for Jesus. He can do miracles that are unheard of.  He can do beyond what we can ask or think. The royal official thought that Jesus had to come to Capernaum to heal his son, but he didn’t. Jesus simply spoke the word and it happened 15 miles away.

I don’t know what you are going through this morning. But I do know that Jesus is able to take care of you. There is no obstacle that can stand in his way. He can act even beyond the assumptions that we make that limit him. He can do anything.

4. Jesus gives life. In John, signs point to who Jesus is and what he has come to do. In this case the message is clear – Jesus is the one who gives life. This is who he is. This is what this sign points to.

Three times in our story the phrase is repeated: Your son lives; your child lives, your son lives. This is being emphasized. And life has a double meaning. It is not just about the healing of the boy. It also pictures for us resurrection life or eternal life.

If in the first Cana miracle Jesus is pictured as providing the wine and the joy for the party on the day of resurrection; here he is pictured as the one who brings about the resurrection itself. Through his authoritative word (John 5:25) the dead will come to life, just as this boy came back from the point of death to live.

(Is the geography that is emphasized here a part of this symbolism? Jesus is in the hills of Cana and speaks and the boy lives in Capernaum below.)

William Higgins

 

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