It’s early in his ministry years, and after having been away from home for awhile, Jesus is heading home. Will he, like he mentioned in John 4, verse 44, be treated with contempt? Or will he receive a hero’s welcome? John writes this in John 4, verses 45-47:
“When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there. Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine.”
It is hard to know what the welcome was actually like. The way John writes that verse makes it possible, and I think I highly possible, that the Galileans were primarily interested in what Jesus could do for them, because he was a miracle worker.
Remember what happened in John 2, verse 23? It’s what John refers to above when he writes, “They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, for they also had been there.” What he did in Jerusalem was many miraculous signs. Almost certainly, those miraculous signs were healing the sick, the blind, the lame, the mute. Of course they welcome him. They want the magician to do more tricks, especially tricks that will benefit them! Entertain them. Heal them. But it doesn’t seem they are interested in a spiritual savior. Thankfully, sometimes when you want one thing, and you end up getting something you didn’t originally want, only to realize what you wanted in the first place is not nearly as good as what you got. Is that confusing? Keep with me, because what John says happens next will help you understand:
“And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.”
Jesus’ reputation as a miracle worker has people excited. And hopeful. A man with a sick son visits Jesus, begging Jesus to heal his son. The man was a royal official, meaning he was a Jewish man who worked for the local king, one of the Herods, who was called King, but was actually a regional governor under the authority of the Roman Empire. Still, though the man with a sick son is a local bigwig, apparently the medical options available to him haven’t worked, and the man is desperate. He hears about a up and coming miracle worker, and rushes to him.
Jesus says something in verse 48 that might come across as offensive to this man who has come to Jesus for help:
“Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”
Is Jesus being mean? Doubt it. We know that Jesus is mean. Instead, Jesus is revealing the truth about so many people that were interested in him. We don’t know if Jesus’ comment applied to the royal official, or if the royal official’s request gave Jesus an open door to make a comment about the society in general. The people, by and large, would not believe unless they had some kind of proof. What is Jesus getting at?
Jesus is talking about faith. Faith is, by definition, believing in something that cannot, in the end, be proved. There is evidence, sure. For believing in Jesus, I would even say that there is lots of great evidence. But proof? No.
For example, Christianity rests on one foundation, that of the resurrection of Jesus. If the resurrection didn’t happen, the foundation crumbles, and the entire structure of Christianity crashes down in failure. But we can’t prove the resurrection happened. We believe it by faith. There is absolutely lots of wonderful evidence that Jesus really bodily rose from the dead, and I would be happy to have a conversation with read about that evidence, but I cannot ultimately prove it. That’s where faith comes in. We choose to believe, not only in our hearts and minds, but more importantly with the choices of our lives, showing that we believe that Jesus rose from the dead. For us. For relationship. For love.
Jesus was concerned the people were only into him for the healings, and they were not going to genuinely place their faith in him. Would they still choose him if he doesn’t perform as they want? But the royal official, as I said, is desperate. His son is dying. He has nowhere else to go. Sometimes that’s the very position we need to be in to go to God, the awful feeling of desperation. And that is as good a time as any to go to God. Which is what the man did. Look at verses 49-54.
“The royal official said, ‘Sir, come down before my child dies.’ Jesus replied, ‘You may go. Your son will live.’ The man took Jesus at his word and departed. While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, ‘The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.’ Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live.’ So he and all his household believed. This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.”
I love it. Jesus doesn’t touch the man’s son. He doesn’t even go to visit him to look at him. The distance from Cana to Capernaum is 16.5 miles. Jesus, instead of making that three to four hour walk, just heals the son right then and there by declaring it done. And it was done.
In verse 52 we learn that the man is on his journey home, and it is the next day. Why the next day, when it was just a 3-4 hour walk? We learn that the boy was healed the previous day at the seventh hour, which was about 1pm-2pm, so apparently the man waited to return home until the next day. His servants meet him on the way to tell him the wonderful news that his son is healed! The royal official is overjoyed, and he and all his household believe. He wanted one thing, and he got it, but he also got another thing that was better. His son was healed, and they all believed in Jesus.
I must admit, it is definitely easier to believe in Jesus when you experience his blessing. When you see him at work in your life and in the world. On Christmas Eve morning, in my house we woke to a frozen kitchen sink cold water pipe, and a frozen water line in the fridge. Our family was coming over early afternoon, and we had Christmas Eve worship at night. I was anxious and saying breath prayers to God, which basically amounted to “Help!” We had been up at 2:30 and 4:30am stuffing the wood stove, trying to fight against the icy wind blasting the front of the house, which is where the kitchen sink is located. We even opened the cabinet and put a space heater, hoping to keep the water lines thawed.
Interestingly, the hot water line worked. There must have been a weak spot in the insulation by the cold water line. So I went in the basement and used a hairdryer on the cold water line, and prayed more. After maybe an hour, it thawed! So I put more insulation around it. But the hairdryer didn’t seem to be making a difference on the fridge water line. I wasn’t even sure it was frozen. It might have just coincidentally broke at the same time, but that seems fishy, doesn’t it? So I stuffed insulation around it too, and we were without fridge water for the day. Not a big deal at all, but I was bothered. House stuff stresses me. When we woke Christmas Day, the fridge water was now working! I was thanking God. Was it a miracle? I doubt it. But it was a blessing; something I was thankful for. It is a good thing to thank God whenever we experience blessing of any kind.
This royal official had just experienced a massive blessing, that of the life of his son, and he believed. That is the right response to the blessing of God, to believe in God. To give your life to him. To acknowledge God’s activity in our world.
Then we come to another miracle, which we’ll find out about in the next post.