This week I am second guessing my decision to look at the Gospel of John through the lens of Jesus signs because it means we skip over a number of significant passages, ie Cleansing the Temple, Jesus and Nicodemus, and the Woman at the Well. Tempted as I am to linger on some of those I am pressing on to the second sign John records in 4:43-54.
Now we know this was not the second sign Jesus performed (even though John calls it that). In 2:23 John writes,”Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name.” Why do you think John called out the signs he did?
Although John is not necessarily written chronologically, he definitely places our current sign after Jesus’ trip through Samaria. He was on His way back to Galilee because he was in a spot of trouble with the Pharisees over baptism, met a woman, spoke to her, changed her outlook on life, was joined by his disciples, many Samaritans believed and he and his disciples stayed in the Samaritan town of Sychar for two days.
Upon his return to Galilee, the people welcomed him because they had seen what he had done in Jerusalem over Passover. Specifically he stayed in Cana, where he had turned water to wine. A royal official in Capernaum went to Jesus and begged him to heal his dying son. Capernaum was about 20 miles northeast of Cana on the north shore of Lake Gennesaret, so a hard day’s travel away.
The official, since he was said to be a Royal Official, not Imperial, must have been part of the government of Herod the Tetrarch who ruled the region under the authority of the Roman Empire. He must have heard of or seen the signs Jesus was doing and out of desperation come to him.
The official begged Jesus to come to Capernaum before his child died. Jesus told him to go and that his son would live. Does that seem kind of cold of Jesus, no real reassurance, no comfort, just go and all will be well. No evidence either. If Jesus had gone with him, the Official would have had the reassurance of His presence on the trip and would have seen the healing take place. Jesus offered none of that. Just go.
And here’s the reason I think John recorded this sign. Jesus had said to the Official in 4:48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders you will never believe”. But without seeing the result, without seeing the wonder or sign, 4:50 says “The man took Jesus at His word and departed.”
What do we demand of Jesus? What would it require for us to take Jesus at His word? Do we need our hand held constantly? I think the Official’s position helped him in this regard. When the King gave an order he did not need to go to the place to see that it was done; he was the King, it was done when he said it.
Matthew records a similar event, also in Capernaum, in 8:5-13. A centurion asked Jesus to heal one of his servants. When Jesus asks if he should come to the centurion’s house and heal the servant the Centurion said,”Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” Jesus was amazed at the centurion’s faith.
Mary acted in faith, without evidence, by telling the servants to do what Jesus commanded. The servants acted, not so much in faith, but in obedience in carrying out Jesus commands. The Official took Jesus at His word, that his son would be healed. I’m sensing a pattern here, are you? Let’s see how it develops.
But in the meanwhile, what is the pattern of our lives with regard to obeying and trusting Jesus?