43After the two days He left for Galilee. 44(Now Jesus Himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honour in his own country.) 45When 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. 46Once more He visited Cana in Galilee, where He had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47When 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. 48“Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.”
49The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at His word and departed. 51While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.”
53Then the father realised that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed.
54This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.
The first thing we need to do before examining this miracle is to try and clear up some confusion. Jesus’ first miracle, which we looked at last Sunday was turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana. John 4:54 says after the healing of the official’s son, “This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.” But if we go to John 2:23, we read, “While He was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs He was doing and believed in His name.” Nicodemus, in chapter 3 also refers to other miracles Jesus had performed. By the time Jesus healed the official’s son in chapter 4, His popularity had already spread mainly because of other miracles He performed, which we’ll get to in a moment, so does this mean that 4:54 is wrong, because it certainly wasn’t Jesus’ second miracle?
How can John say that this was the second miracle Jesus did when He had performed others since the changing of the water into wine?
According to John 2:11, the turning of water into wine was Jesus' first-ever miracle. John’s Gospel records seven signs, or miracles, intended to prove that Jesus is God. However, John makes it clear that these seven signs are not the only miracles Jesus ever performed. In fact, in John 20:30-31 he writes, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written (specifically the seven signs John focuses on), that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
Jesus did perform other miracles while He was in Jerusalem, after the wedding in Cana. The mere fact that the official came all the way from Capernaum seeking healing from Jesus means he had some reason to think that Jesus had miraculous power.
So when John 4:54 refers to the healing of the official’s son as the second miraculous sign, it’s important to understand the context. This is the second sign of the seven highlighted in John’s gospel. It is also specifically referred to as the second sign done by Jesus in Galilee. The first was at the wedding in Cana. Between the wedding and the healing of the official’s son, Jesus had apparently done many other miraculous works.
Secondly, before we continue, I need to correct something I said last Sunday. You may recall that I said the miracle at the wedding in Cana happened three days after Jesus’ baptism. Someone came to me after the service last week and questioned me about the 40 days that Jesus was tempted in the desert after His baptism. An excellent question! The synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – all record this, but there is no mention of Jesus’ baptism or the temptation of Jesus in John. Chapter 2 begins by saying, “On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee.” I got it wrong when I said this was three days after His baptism. In fact, it was three days after the events recorded in 1:29, “John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” I’ve been looking at various commentaries, and they all agree that when John the Baptist saw Jesus and said this, it was because he wanted to point his listeners to the man of whom he said, “I baptise with water, but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” John had baptised Jesus 40 days earlier, and had been telling his followers about the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Now, more than a month later, Jesus returned to the place where He had been baptised and began calling His twelve disciples to follow Him. John saw Him and was excitedly pointing Jesus out and proclaiming who He was for the benefit of those around him. The “third day” mentioned in 2:1 was three days after Jesus’ return from the desert, not three days after His baptism.
So my apologies for getting it wrong, and I really do appreciate my error being pointed out to me. Some might say that it’s a minor point and doesn’t really matter, but it does matter. We need to get it right, because all Scripture is the Spirit-breathed, infallible Word of God.
So now we move to the story of an anxious father who travelled about 40 kilometres to beg Jesus to heal his dying son.
As I mentioned, this miracle also occurred at Cana of Galilee. But time has passed. In the interim, Jesus had performed miracles in Jerusalem during Passover week which impressed the religious leaders so much that they concluded at first that God must be with Him. This is what the Pharisee Nicodemus said to Jesus in John 3:2, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
When Jesus returned home to Galilee after the Passover, He was welcomed by His fellow citizens, and many who had also travelled to Jerusalem for the Passover had witnessed the miracles He had performed there. So His popularity was spreading. When the official, or nobleman from Capernaum whose son was desperately ill heard that Jesus had returned to Galilee, he immediately went to Him.
One of the distinguishing features of this particular miracle is that more people were involved than is generally true of Jesus’ miracles. The participants or parties to the miracle were Jesus, the anxious father, the dying son, the bystanders, and the nobleman’s household.
Jesus had already performed miracles which had set Him apart. His reputation had spread rapidly. The Passover was a religious festival which every Jewish man in Judah and Galilee was supposed to attend. Many other Jews from other areas were there, so it didn’t take long before people all over had heard about this simple carpenter’s son who had some kind of supernatural gift. But for now, they were unclear as to just who Jesus was. They knew only that God had worked wonders through Him, indicating that He must at least be a prophet.
The nobleman or royal official lived in Capernaum, which meant that he was an officer in the service of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea.
But when we meet him, we don’t see an important man. Rather we see an anxious father. All the externals such as social position meant nothing. All he could think of was his son who was close to death, so when he heard that this man everyone was talking about was in Cana, he didn’t hesitate. He set out immediately and in person to beg Jesus to heal his son.
The crowd of bystanders is mentioned in the text because they are actually an important part of the story. Many people witnessed the exchange between Jesus and the anxious father. We see this in verse 48 where Jesus said, “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe.” Jesus was speaking directly to the father, but when He said, “you people,” He used the plural, clearly talking to everyone around Him.
He was commenting on the attitude of the crowd. They followed Him everywhere He went, not because they were eager to hear and believe what He might say, but because they wanted to see more miracles.
The enthusiasm surrounding Jesus was on the basis of signs and miracles, but this did not automatically produce faith in Him. Even when Jesus told the man that his son would live, the text says that he took Jesus at His word. There is no indication of faith here, other than perhaps some kind of magical belief. True faith came later.
The conclusion to this miracle is significant because John mentions the precise timing of the healing as the time of Jesus’ pronouncement. This led to a deeper faith, not only for the man but also for his household.
In Biblical times, the household of an important man included not only his wife and children and other relatives, but also his servants and, in many cases their families too.
So what must it have been like for the crowd as this desperate father approached Jesus? Will they get to see another miracle? This was when Jesus looked at them and rebuked them. All they were concerned about was seeing a few magic tricks.
The father though, couldn’t care less about witnessing a miracle. It was his desperate need, not curiosity, that drove him to Jesus.
The lesson for us here is that we need to distinguish the curious from the needy today. God has not called us to debate theology, to get into pointless arguments across the religious divide or pander to the interests of those who just want to speculate about religion. There are people all around us who are hurting and are desperate to know the truth, and the only healing they will find is through a personal relationship with Jesus. They are the ones we should be reaching out to as a priority. I think the Church wastes far too much time, energy and resources arguing with people who have no desire to learn the truth, but just want to sound important and knowledgeable.
Too many Christians make the mistake of thinking it is our duty to go into the non-believing world and say, “But the Bible says…” The simple answer from non-believers is, “We don’t care what the Bible says, because we don’t believe it.” God’s Word is written for His people – for Christians. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Training in righteousness. Who is righteous? Only those who are in Christ. Who is “the man of God?” Only those who are in Christ. Christians!
The lost and the hurting, not the arrogant deniers of truth with hardened hearts, are the ones we need to take the message of the Gospel of Christ to first, because their hearts are the ones that God is preparing to open.
And so Jesus spoke to the father who had begged Him to go to Capernaum. “You may go. Your son will live.”
This comment may seem at first glance to be dismissive, or even a bit heartless, but the official did not see it that way. He took it as a binding promise, and so filled with hope, he turned for home.
As we know, his servants met him on the road and told him his son was all right. It’s clear from the Greek text that the father expected a gradual recovery. A more accurate translation of verse 52 would be, “He asked them the hour when he began to get better.” The servants’ answer proved to the father that at the very moment Jesus had said “Your son will live,” he had recovered completely and instantly. And then they all believed.
This miracle of Jesus did more than authenticate Him as some kind of prophet or God’s spokesman. It demonstrated that His power is unbounded. The space of some 40 kilometres between Jesus and the dying boy was no barrier. He spoke, “He lives,” and the boy’s recovery was instantaneous and complete.
In the same way, no boundaries exist for Jesus today. Christ is in heaven, but He is also here with us by His Spirit.
This particular miracle is about faith. The word “believe” occurs in verses 48, 50 and 53. The father didn’t fully understand what faith was until later, but he would not have set out on his long journey unless he had some hope, some belief that Jesus could help him.
This man’s faith was very different to the curiosity of the crowd. They were there because they wanted to see some magic - a miracle. There is no indication in the text that the miracle, to which only the father and his household were actually witnesses, had any impact on the curious people. Their cry, “Show us a miracle,” was not an indication of faith, but of unbelief.
Jesus is God incarnate. He is the eternal God who has always existed within the Holy Trinity. John 20:31 again: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.” Jesus did not perform miracles to impress people. He performed them to reveal His true identity: God Himself. To reduce Him to anything other than that is unbelief.
In verse 50 Jesus says, “You may go. Your son will live.”
First the command, and then the promise. How often are we reluctant to obey God, hoping that He will act or that He will at least give us more faith before we will put our faith into action?
The only way faith can grow is by exercising it. To exercise our faith, we must obey the commands of God, however strange they may seem.
This miracle reminds us that with every command there is a promise. With every step of obedience, we move further into the circle of God’s richest blessings.
In the face of death, a hopeful faith drove the anxious father to Jesus. Jesus gave him a command and a promise. In faith the father obeyed and believed the promise. And the result was life. The son recovered, and new faith was born in the hearts of all in that household who witnessed the healing.
And Jesus still hears our prayers today, just as He heard the pleadings of the anxious father so long ago. As Jesus in compassion reached across the miles to meet that father’s need, so He will reach out today to meet ours.
Before we close, we need to consider an important point. Does this mean that every prayer for physical healing is answered? Clearly not.
Later in this series we’ll be looking at the paralysed man that Jesus healed in Bethesda. There were, according to John 5:3, “A great number of disabled people” there, but Jesus healed only one. Why didn’t He heal them all?
There are two answers to that question. Firstly, the sovereignty of God. As hard and as heart-breaking as it is for us to accept at times, no is also an answer to prayer. Why does God heal some and others not? I don’t know.
Which is closely connected to the second answer to the question as to why God didn’t heal them all. Given the choice, would you prefer physical or spiritual healing?
If God healed every physical ailment we ever had, we would never die. And what does death bring for those who put their trust in Jesus Christ? Everlasting life.
As Christians, we have to remember that this is not our home. We have all struggled with trying to make sense of God’s often mysterious answers to prayer, but we have peace because we know these things will pass. This is not our home. He has delivered us from this broken, sin-darkened world by His grace.
As I mentioned last week, and will continue to do so, the greatest miracle of all is that God has provided us with a Saviour.
Jesus never promised physical healing to everyone. He promised it on specific occasions to specific people for one specific purpose: To bring glory to Himself and to reveal His true identity as God.
What He didpromise to all who believe in Him and trust Him is tribulation and persecution. But He also promises us forgiveness of sin as we escape the righteous wrath of God. That is true and total healing. He promises eternal life. That’s what Jesus offers you – a hope that this world and all its empty man-made religions cannot offer.
Just as the nobleman in John 4 and his family and servants trusted Jesus then, so can we, knowing and believing “that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Place your trust and faith in Jesus. And as you do, you are given eternal life in His name. That’s the promise. That’s the miracle.
Homegroup Study Notes
Read John 4:43-54
What are we able to learn from the royal official in this account, and how does his story relate to your own journey of faith?
Discuss Jesus’ comment in verse 48.
What does this say about the faith (or lack thereof) of many people in Christian Churches today?
In verse 50 Jesus first commands the man to go home, before giving him the promise of healing.
What does this teach us about obedience and faith?
All Christians would like to have a firmer and deeper faith in God, so what can we learn from this particular miracle?
The man’s faith had a profound effect on his own family and servants. How does (or should) our faith God point others to Christ?
Sadly, many Christians of deep faith have not had their prayers for healing of loved ones answered.
How are we to make sense these occasions?
How does John 20:30-31 help us here?