The Nobleman’s Son
John 4:46-54 MKJV Then Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee, where He made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum. (47) When He heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and begged Him that He would 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 nobleman said to Him, Sir, come down before my child dies. (50) Jesus said to him, Go, your son lives. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken to him, and he went away. (51) And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, Your son lives. (52) Then he asked of them the hour when he began to get better. And they said to him, yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. (53) So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, Your son lives. And he himself believed, and his whole house. (54) This is the second miracle Jesus did, when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.
Tackling last things first – this is not the second miracle of Jesus but the second major Galilean ministry, which occurred after coming a trip from Jerusalem (the first being the wedding at Cana) as John mentions the many miracles done at the feats in Jerusalem. This miracle is a “sign” in that it points to God and to the nature of Jesus and elicits faith from many people involved.
Miracles are not just God’s power at work for our convenience. They are always for the glory of God and are meant to increase faith –which is why the sometimes seem to happen most often to new Christians and to non-believers just before they are converted. Many of the Muslims who believe in Jesus come to faith as the result of a decisive miracle such as a healing in the family. Thus before we ask for a miracle we need to also ask – who will believe, and what glory shall the Lord get from all of this?
Jesus says, and it seems with a sign of some sort, that “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” This was His reaction to the crowds – and He performed the miracle so they might believe. They should have been like the Samaritan woman – open, curious about God and able to sense the truth in their spirit, from a brief conversation, and believe. The Holy Spirit anointing on Jesus should have been enough to convince them that here was a holy man of God, a Messiah. But they were “stiff-necked and stubborn” or as they say in the Philippines “hard-headed”. The “fragrance of grace upon the soul” did not move them – rather they wanted tangible visible proof.
Jesus initial reply to the nobleman (Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe) seems harsh but Jesus often tested people to see how real their desire was, and how truly desperate they were for God to act. The Syrophoenician woman, the father of the epileptic and the case of some blind beggars are cases when people had to publicly demonstrate their sincere desire for God to act. Jesus tests us, how much do we really want his grace? Will we suffer an apparent rebuke, or being ignored? Will we wait? Will we persist and press in? God most often answers the persistent and the desperate.
The nobleman (probably an official in Herod’s court) accepts the rebuke and simply asks for his son to be healed, and for Jesus to travel the twenty miles from Cana down to the lakeside at Capernaum. Jesus refuses to do this and simply says “your son lives”. If Jesus had gone then it would have looked like Jesus was at the beck and call of high officials. He could not go such a distance with a royal official without compromising His gospel of social equality (see James 2). So Jesus simply issues the word – and the nobleman believes and goes his way to find his servants coming to him with news of the son’s healing.
Something about the way Jesus said “Your son lives” brought the nobleman’s faith to maturity and he did believe – and later his whole household. This sort of faith in the “rhema word of God” (the word God speaks into life’s situations) is the faith of the saints and the prophets. God said it, I believe it.
What does this sign tell us about Jesus? Firstly that He is a compassionate healer whose word is authoritative and can heal at a distance. Secondly that He is the victor over death and disease and the giver of life. The phrase “your son lives” is repeated three times in this short paragraph. This was the healing phrase – the word from God in the situation and it is spoken about and celebrated. The word for lives is from the “zoe” Greek word family and while it has normal uses it is often also used of eternal life, resurrection life or powerful life, life that is life back from the dead (Galatians 2:20, Revelation 1:18, 4:9-10) and especially so in John (John 4:10-11, 5:25, 6:51, 57,69, 11:26 as well as here)
In this chapter Jesus has proclaimed that he gives living water, and now that He gives life. Since life comes first of all from the Creator that is tantamount to saying that he is linked to the Creator God and shares many of his powers. While medicine may heal it cannot give life, only God can do that, and if Jesus Christ can also do that, then He is God. And Jesus does not just give normal life, he gives resurrection life, eternal life, the life that cannot die and which is living water in our innermost beings.