2. Jesus Healed the Official’s Son from Afar
Read John 4:46-54
The second sign that John gives also took place in Cana of Galilee. Before this second miracle, John records that Jesus Christ cleansed the temple (prophesying about a future sign–His resurrection), He explained to Nicodemus the need for complete spiritual rebirth in order to be reconciled to God, then he purposefully went to Samaria to give this gift of new life to the woman at the well and the entire village of Sychar.
The believers in Sychar implored Jesus to stay with them, and He did stay for two days before heading back up toward Galilee. Apparently, He did not stop in Nazareth on his way to Cana. This passage hints at this fact and even more clarity is given in Mark 6:1-6 about the common view of Christ within His hometown.
(For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast. (John 4:44-45)
When Christ returned to Cana, he was met by an official in Herod’s court. This man was desperate for help because his child was sick to the point of death. Because of the news of Jesus’ miracles, he traveled 18 miles to get to Him in hope of a miracle for his son. Notice Jesus’ response to this man and the crowd when he heard this father’s plea.
“Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”
Does this sound like a cruel response? Remember the point to all of these signs according to John 20:31? John also tells us in chapter 20 verse 21 that he only wrote down a few of Christ’s works. If he would have written down everything, all the books in the world could not contain the entirety. It seems that Christ was simply pointing out the obvious frailty of human nature, and is reiterating the purpose of all of His earthly miraculous works. Thank God for His grace to demonstrate His power and mercy in tangible ways so that people would believe and come to Him in faith.
The official was desperate for his son to be healed, and he again immediately begged Christ to come home with him to heal his son. Jesus lovingly responded to the man that he could return back home without fear because his son would live. Obviously, the nobleman believed the word of Christ for his son’s physical healing. In fact, he even waited until the following day before going back home. When he got home finding his son recovering, he asked his servants at what time he began to improve. They confirmed that it was at the exact hour that Jesus made the proclamation of his healing that the fever left him.
This was a bold faith demonstrated by the nobleman. He trusted Christ’s words alone for the healing of his son without any visible proof that this would happen. While he believed, there was a further, deeper belief that resulted from this miracle bringing his entire household to faith in Christ. It was at the point of seeing the fulfillment of physical healing that this official is said to have “himself believed.” This father was completely absorbed with physical healing for his child, but Jesus Christ always had everlasting healing in mind for those He came to save. His saying about belief due to signs was proven true in the case of this man, but our gracious God performed that work for Him for the very purpose of bringing new life to this man’s entire family.
Enough Faith or God’s Gift?
Humanly, it’s easy to focus on the official’s great faith in Christ’s words. You might be tempted to believe that the amount of faith mustered up determines the outcome of your prayers to God. Even more dangerous, many believe that it is the amount of faith displayed that secures their eternal salvation.
Let’s look at the example of the first Passover from the previous study to examine this more. Consider those who obeyed the command to sacrifice the innocent lamb and spread the blood over the doorposts. There must have been varying degrees of faith demonstrated among all of the Israelites. Just reading a bit further into the account of their exodus it’s obvious that faith was extremely lacking in a majority through the entire process. Imagine one man spreading the blood on the doorposts while filled with doubts in his heart and mind. “Did I do everything just right? Will God really spare my child?” Consider another Israelite full of calm assurance following the commands given. If both believed and therefore acted accordingly regardless of the state of their nerves, was the result the same? Why?
Let’s look to another father/son relationship where healing was desperately needed. Mark 9 records an incident where a child was afflicted by a demon, and his father again was desperate for help. His cry better matches the reality that humans experience when it comes to faith.
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
Jesus Christ’s response is always that of love and grace to a humble acknowledgment of need. It is not the self-righteous one, dependent upon his own ability to believe enough who receives God’s grace. It is the one who humbles himself recognizing his severe lack of faith and righteousness who receives God’s grace. Cry out to God in humility just as the tax collector did in Luke 18:9-14, and receive His abundant mercy and grace.
Study it Out
- What characteristics of divinity were on display in this miracle performed by Jesus Christ? Think through the power and sovereignty He possesses that allowed Him to heal in this manner. Who was completely able to heal and responsible for healing?
- We are told that the father believed in Christ’s promise that His son would live, and he acted accordingly by going on his way. What was the ultimate result of this sign according to John 4:53? How does the privacy of this miracle demonstrate Christ’s love and grace? (Consider that he didn’t go with the man, but healed him from a distance keeping this from becoming a public miracle.)
- Is salvation a choice between heaven and hell according to passages such as 1 Thessalonians 1:9, the passage just read in John 4, as well as the explanation of salvation Christ gave to Nicodemus in John 3? From what are people called to turn from and Who are they called to turn to?
- What are some of the Witness statements and “I Am” statements that correspond with this story of healing and faith?
- Is there anything you can do to earn God’s salvation? According to Ephesians 2:8-9, what specific aspects of salvation are free gifts? For what purpose does Christ save us according to this passage as well as the first two chapters of Ephesians? Do you see any hint of the idea of salvation as a fire escape or simply a free ticket to heaven?
The audio and corresponding PowerPoint file are from the original sermon series by Bob Roberts to a group of juniors at summer camp.