43 After the two days he departed for Galilee. 44 (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) 45 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.
46 So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 When 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. 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you[a] see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.51 As he was going down, his servants[b] met him and told him that his son was recovering. 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour[c] the fever left him.” 53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household.54 This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.
We will consider each of the characters in this story and what they might teach us. We will consider the crowds, the official, the boy, the sickness, and the Savior.
Jesus now departs from Samaria where nearly an entire village comes to believe in Jesus as the Messiah after His conversation with the woman at the well. Verse 44 then seems to give us the reason why Jesus does not go to his hometown of Nazareth, and instead goes to Galilee, where they did welcome Him. However, the text indicates to us that they only really welcomed Him because they had seen some of the signs and wonders that he did at the feast, which I believe refers to Passover in Jerusalem where Jesus cleansed the temple and did other signs while there. The indication is that they did not really welcome Jesus in true faith in Him as the Christ, just as crowds full of fascination and wanting entertainment.
While there, there is a man who comes to Jesus wanting Jesus to heal his sick and dying son. But in verse 48, Jesus says, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The “you” in verse 48 is plural in Greek, meaning this was intended at the crowds of people, not at this man in particular. So in one sense Jesus is rebuking the phony faith of the crowds, while yet healing this man’s son, in a way in which the crowds couldn’t really witness, as the man had to travel a ways back to his home to see that his son was healed.
The Jews wanted signs. Jesus looks down upon this. The Galileans, the crowds – they “welcomed” Jesus, but only for His signs and wonders. There were individuals with true faith, such as this official. But the crowds – oh, be wary of the crowds. Crowds just want to be entertained. Indeed they did witness many signs, wonders, and miracles, but the signs, and entertainment they receive was to their judgment. They are signs and witnesses against them, that they believed not, when they had the most light of all. Imagine living in Galilee in the first century, witnessing the miracles of Jesus, and yet believing not. This makes the very signs you witness, signs witnessing against you, for your unbelief.
Unfortunately this is still a very great danger for many crowds of people today. All they want is signs, wonders, miracles, and healings. That is fake faith. Hebrews 11:1 tells us, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” The danger of this fake faith is that it wants to see signs and wonders with eyes of flesh. It care not for true assurance in things not seen.
Along these lines, I believe the gospel writer wants us to consider the contrast between these crowds and the Samaritans that we saw last week. Many of the Samaritans believed because of Jesus’ Word (v. 41). The Jews wanted signs. What a difference there is between true belief, and fleshly belief. True belief believes the Word; fleshly belief seeks signs to scratch the itch of their flesh.
Let us now consider the official who comes to Jesus requesting that Jesus come down to his home to heal his son who is sick and near death. This official displays to us many great lessons of what true faith is and looks like. We will consider those things here.
The official did not seek to be entertained. He had a need. He wasn’t coming to be entertained, He had an urgent need for Jesus.
The official went to Jesus for His need. He had a need that he sought only to be met in the Lord Jesus Christ. I’m sure they tried all the medical remedies they had available to them, which is right and good; yet at their failure, the official was left only with One in whom to trust: The Lord Jesus Christ. Here in this story that is all we see. His complete faith and dependence on the Lord Jesus alone. He put all his eggs in one basket. It was not Jesus plus “insert x.” It was not a little bit of Jesus and a little bit of that. It was total and complete dependence upon Christ. Jesus will not be one among many. He will be all in all. It is faith in Christ alone that matters. This is so it is only Christ that will be glorified. Only He can save. None else can, none else will, and none else can even assist or contribute. We must be brought to a point of complete, total, and sole reliance upon Christ.
The official believed the Word of Jesus, without need of something more. This man simply believed the Word of Christ. Jesus honored that. Jesus values such faith over a desire for signs. Today we have the Word of Christ preserved for us in the Scripture and I wonder: is it enough? Is it enough for us to rest upon and go home content with, or do we seek after additional signs or assurances? These additional signs could obviously be a desire for the miraculous, which is quite prevalent today. It could also come in more subtle ways, especially for reformed folk. It could be a desire for God to give us certain feelings and particular emotions for certain things in our lives, and we just won’t be okay until we experience them. Is the Word of God sufficient? Are you content to go home with those promises?
The official obeyed Jesus. Jesus said “go,” the official went, just as the fever of the boy did at the very same words. Even fevers obey Jesus, putting men to shame.
Finally, the official imparted his faith to his family (v. 53).
I believe the gospel writer also intends to draw our attention to a contrast between the village of many Samaritans and the household of the official, which were few in relation to Israel. This is a contrast between the apostate condition of 1st century Israel and the Gentiles who were ripe for the harvest.
This is what true faith does. It cares not to be entertained with signs and wonders, for it needs them not. True faith goes only to Jesus and latches upon His Word and believes it as it’s only sure promise, and thus by faith obeys the One on which it rests.
The Connection to Cana
The first miracle was done at a wedding, a time of celebration. This miracle was done at a deathbed, a time of mourning. Jesus is the Sovereign Lord over the good times and the bad.
Both miracles were done by the command of Christ. The Word of His power performed the signs. With a command, Jesus turned water to wine, and sickness to health.
Consider the sick boy. He could do nothing. He couldn’t get up to go to Jesus. He could not heal himself. He could just lay there and be sick, nearing death with no hope. But he had a parent – a father who cared for him. He had a father who petitioned the Lord Jesus, the Great Physician on his behalf; and Christ honored that and gave him life, pulling him out of the grave, as it were. Parents, fathers, will you go to Jesus and petition Him for His grace and power on behalf of your children who are sick and dead in sins, unable to do anything for themselves, in great need of the Great Physician of souls? Without a father who did such, this boy would’ve died.
The puritans would talk about laying up prayers in heaven for their children. Proverbs 13:22 says that “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children…” And that starts with leaving an inheritance of prayers stored up for them at the throne of grace. We cannot measure the value and effectiveness of a stockpile of prayers laid up for our children. Children, that is the most valuable thing to receive from your parents – their prayers. Beg them to pray for you.
Think of the Lord’s design in this. He afflicted the official’s son so badly, so as to drive the official to Christ and depend on him.
What was the meaning of the sickness?
- To display the power of Christ.
- To give faith and draw men to Christ. I love what the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” What was the purpose of their affliction? To make them rely not on themselves but on God who raises the dead!
- To remind us our lives are in His hands.
Is there any affliction in your life? It could be physical, it could be spiritual, it could be a number of things. Oh that we would sit up and listen when we feel affliction and pain, for it is the Lord teaching us and drawing our attention to Him – His power and His sufficiency.
Christ and His Word are:
- Powerful (effective)
As incredible as this story is, do you realize that Christ answered the request of the official, but not in the way that the official wanted Him to. The official wanted Jesus to come down to his home. Christ simply told the man to go, and his son would be well. Christ often does not work and answer in the way that we ask Him to and think that He ought. He often works in ways in which we did not want Him to, or ways in which we did not imagine. And yet, true faith takes hold of His Word as sufficient, not our ways. We are often so worried and upset that Jesus isn’t answering in the way that we want Him to. But that’s faith in our ways, not in His Word. True faith rests upon the Word of Christ as sufficient, not on human ways. I love what Calvin says on this, “Thus it frequently happens that our Heavenly Father, while He does not comply with our wishes in every particular, proceeds to relieve us by unexpected methods, that we may learn not to prescribe to him in anything.” In other words, God doesn’t do things in the ways that we wish Him to, so that we would learn not to tell Him how to do things, but that we would just take our need to Him and trust Him. Easier said than done isn’t it? May God gives us such faith to take His Word as sufficient.
What is the need in your life? Is there something keeping you anxious? Would you take it to Christ? Would you rest in His Word and leave the solution in His hands? Thus would we learn that He is enough. Calvin says that the official, “…believed the life of his son to be contained in a single word of Christ.”
Are you bed ridden with sickness and need in your life, with afflictions of various kinds? There is a Savior who is able. His Word is sufficient. His Word is effective. He is a Savior who is willing and able, for He laid down His life for us. He willingly took our cup of suffering and affliction for our sin, with complete faith that it was worth for the joy set before Him. The Son of God was pierced and vexed with greater agonies than any other would ever know. He was laid low in the grave, descending into death, that He might rise and live again by His power and sufficiency, that we might believe and have faith that since He kept His Word to rise again, He will keep His Words of promise to us. “Your sins are forgiven.” “All things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” “I am with you always.” …and many others. His rising from the depths and enduring and overcoming of the greatest affliction is guarantee that He keeps His Word to us, and that it is sufficient for us. Go, and believe.