The Explorer’s Way
John: Gospel of Glory
Sign Two: Jesus, Lord of Healing
And there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and began asking Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.” The royal official said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son is alive.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went home. (John 4:46b-50 NASB)
Jesus has returned to Cana, where He performed His first sign ( Gospel of Glory: King of the Wedding Feast post.) While Jesus warns His disciples that a “prophet is not accepted in his home town,” (4:44), His notoriety has grown due to His actions in Jerusalem.
Thus, a “royal official” hears that Jesus is returning to Cana. This man likely served in a high position under King Herod Antipas, who lived in the upper region of Galilee in Capernaum. His son is ill and near death. So he sets out for Cana to try to bring Jesus back with him to heal his son.
Jesus, the Individual Healer
No two healings or miracles of Jesus are the same. Several Gospels may record the same event, but Jesus’s variety in relating to people through healing is outrageously diverse. There is no formula, no “one-size-fits-all.” Try to think of two healings, or even exchanges with Jesus, that are the same. You won’t find them. He may heal someone from afar, as we see here. Or, He may heal through uninitiated personal contact (Mark 5:25-34).
If you ask yourself, “Why the differences?” you can usually find them in the text. Here, with the royal official, Jesus meets each person where they truly live, adapting to them through His uncanny love.
Many Believe without Seeing
In his exchange with Jesus, the royal official shows a similar belief to that of the Samaritan woman and her village in John 4 who heard Jesus and believed. While the Samaritans believed without a sign, Jesus is at first confrontational with this worried father. This is another reminder of Jesus’s unique approach.
Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.” The royal official said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
Dr. Timothy Keller notes that Jesus often replies to people and their requests with enigmatic statements. We saw this when Jesus’ mother approached Him about the wine at the wedding feast. Jesus’ response seems odd at first – and it does so here as well. This man believes Jesus can heal his son, but it is likely that given what he has heard from Jerusalem that he sees Jesus as some sort of wizard or magician/healer who must, of course, be present with his son for the healing to “work.”
Keller demonstrates how Jesus takes the man from his most immediate need of having his son healed, to his greater need for his whole family to come into trusting faith in Jesus.
So after initially sort of putting him off – and the man remaining resolute – Jesus pronounces that his son has been healed and will now live.
Now, this is the wonderful but often terrifying thing about faith. The man must then turn around and walk 20 miles home “believing” against all that was regularly assumed at that time – for even when prophets like Elisha and Elijah performed healings, they had to be there and do things.
Jesus said to him, “Go; your son is alive.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went home. And as he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was alive. So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son is alive”; and he himself believed, and his entire household. (John 4:50-53, NASB).
Kellers says of Jesus.
“I’m not going to go with you. I can heal with a word,” then he asks “do you realize how God-like that is?”
The royal official, who has at first come base on vague reports of the healing powers of Jesus, has now been challenged to see beyond Jesus as a miracle worker and was something much more. And his “faith” is changing from intellectual curiosity, to existential action – he is going to have to act on this faith in Jesus. He acts. He turns and heads for home.
This is again a second sign that Jesus performed when He had come from Judea into Galilee. (John 4:54, NASB)
The royal official and his family came to understand this sign, seeing beyond it to a greater reality – to Who Jesus was and is.
The Glory of Christ: Lord of Time and Space
This second sign opens a greater view of who Jesus is, part of a continually expanding view of glory. The truth of this passage, revealing that Jesus is the Lord of all healing with power over death. His “signs” are meant to point to the greater reality that He is the Divine Messiah who is not limited by time or space. He is the God/Man Who comes to save all who have their trust in Him.
In closing, we must ask: Why does John go to such lengths to recount these seven signs when so few understood them? One possible answer comes in Jesus’s appearance to Thomas after His resurrection, meeting Thomas’s requirements for proof. Jesus says:
“Because you have seen Me, have you now believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” (John 20:29, NASB)
John’s recording of these signs was meant for us. Millions of people would never see Jesus’s miracles, and yet we believe even as the Samaritan villagers and the royal official did. If we believe in Jesus merely by reading these words of John, we are blessed.
Next Week - Sign Three: Stirring the Pool – Lord of the Sabbath (John 5:1-15)
Pastor Mac (Christopher MacDonald) is CornerstoneSF’s new Online Community Pastor. Former co-founder of the Apologetics Resource Center, and the director of SPOKE: The Human Meaning Project (humanmeaning.org), he has long expressed rich theological and biblical concerns through his writings. You can contact him at email@example.com.