A Father’s Faith; John 4:46-54:
Most of the crowd would not receive His witness that He was the Messiah. Instead of believing, they just followed Jesus around for the spectacle of the signs and wonders they’d seen Him do at the Passover feast in Jerusalem, hoping that they would see Him perform more miracles in Galilee. It was the prosperity gospel of their day—they were in it for what Jesus could do for them, and had no interest in His ability to transform their lives. But there were a few exceptions in Galilee to this general pattern of unbelief. We’re going to talk about the healing of the royal official’s son in John 4:46-54, and we’ll look at in in the context of the faith of this Father who chose to believe that Jesus could heal his son, despite the unbelief of those around him. And we’ll look at the open heart of this father who gained not only healing for his son, but a new life in Christ.
46 Therefore He came again to Cana of Galilee, where He had made the water into wine. And there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum.
Jesus returns to this place of the beginning of His miracles, and we notice a certain parallel between the two miracles at Cana. Both start with a statement of need. In both cases, there is a censure or light rebuke from Jesus regarding a lack of understanding of God’s timing and purposes. But then Jesus meets the need at hand. And His meeting the need fosters belief (John 2:11). John recorded signs in his Gospel, so that we might believe the Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:30-31). We don’t know what kind of royal official he was, but he was likely in the service of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch in charge of Galilee.
47 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.
The father’s first step of faith: in order to seek Jesus out, he had to first go away from his sick son. We know the kind of faith that this royal official has at this point. It is miracle-seeking faith borne out of desperation so strong that He leaves his sick child to find Jesus. This is where a lot of people’s journey of faith begins. No, the royal official’s faith in Him pleased Jesus. The unbelief of the crowd did not!
48 Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.”
The royal official’s faith may have only been a miracle-seeking kind of faith, but it was faith in Jesus Himself, and that’s what counts. The crowds around him were only looking for signs and wonders, for thrills. People think that if they see miracles and wonders that this will suddenly cause them to believe. That’s not usually how it works (see Luke 16:31). Jesus finds a way to do the Will of the Father by refusing to give in to the crowd’s demand for a sign, while nurturing the faith developing in this Father who is worried for his son.
49 The royal official *said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”
You know, some people have a kind of head-knowledge faith or an academic faith. They believe that miracles are possible in theory, but they have a hard time believing that God will provide in this way for them. They Pray and worship in kind of a wrote manner, without much engagement from their heart. This also is an insufficient faith. Jesus remains on the fringes and periphery of their life. If the royal official had this kind of faith, we would find him praying at home in a half-hearted, doubtful way—he would have never made the journey to go find Jesus. But, in this man we find a picture of faith, and of fatherhood. Even when there are obstacles like distance or the need for persistence, He is steadfast. Even when the answer to prayer isn’t evident right away, he keeps on asking (See Luke 18:1-8). God is willing, but we so often give up quickly, or refuse to allow God to mold our petition into something more in line with His will. He had a sincere, steadfast faith. And God had mercy on him, and gave him faith to turn to the One who could help him with his biggest need. He has faith in the right Person, in Jesus. God has given him the faith to understand that Jesus is his Lord. He asks in Jesus’ name saying basically “I just want my son who is near death to get well, and I know that you can help me”.
50 Jesus *said to him, “Go; your son is alive.”
In the ancient world, even among the Jews, miracles and signs and wonders are linked to the physical presence of the person performing the miracle, but as in the case of Naaman the Leper, God seeks to show that distance isn’t a factor that He has to concern Himself with. And this is important for us, because it means that our prayers are not affected by distance—we can pray for people on the other side of the world and expect that our prayers will be heard, and be effectual. So this crowd, who was so interested in seeing a miracle did not get to see the miracle that occurred. But the man did get exactly what he needed to build his faith. Belief comes first, then the miracle. Believing is seeing, not seeing is believing.
The word go is imperative, so it is a command by his Lord Jesus to Go. But to go with a promise of life for his son. The man’s faith allows him to put aside his preconceptions about how God works in these kind of situations in order for God to do what HE knows is best. We are not the ones in charge, God is. He thinks that if he leaves, he would leave behind his one chance for help. But Jesus demanded that his faith be not blindly desperate, but rooted enough in the person of Jesus Himself to trust His Word, and believe in Him. Wonders may produce awe, but the Word produces faith. As Hebrews 1:11 reminds us, faith is being sure, even when we don’t yet see the God’s promised outcome as reality in our lives, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (11:1).
The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went home.
The saving kind of faith is the kind that puts our lives and the lives of our loved ones into the hands of Jesus, knowing that we can trust Him. And this is the same kind of faith that gets us through the disasters of life, the disappointments of life, the tragedies and sorrows. It sustains us, and is the kind of faith that holds no matter what.
51 And as he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was alive.
They could have waited for him to arrive home, but they climbed up toward Cana to be able to deliver the news to him as soon as possible.
52 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.”
Of course this only served to strengthen his faith, because that’s the time when Jesus had performed the miracle from about 16.5 miles away.
53 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.
The time confirmation meant that this father and royal official now “realized” or knew that the healing was directly attributable to Jesus. It is one thing to believe that Jesus answers my desperate prayers or helps me in emergencies, it is a completely different level of revelation to understand that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, the author of life, worthy for me to follow and obey in every way. It is in this moment of realization that this royal official becomes a follower of Jesus, not just a miracle seeker or desperate father. He became a believer in Jesus as Lord. And not only that, his new found relationship to Jesus was contagious—his entire family followed in his belief. His belief produced immediate fruit and proof of his conversion. When those who know us best are so impressed by our testimony and the transformation of our lives that they want to follow Jesus too, then something very significant has happened (see Acts 10:2, 11:14, 16:15 and 31 and 18:8). The deeper, the more genuine, the more sincere and personal our faith, the more likely it will rub off on those around us.