Scripture: After the two days he departed for Galilee. (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) 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.
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. 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. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 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. This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee. John 4:43-54 ESV
[Click here to read the entire chapter.]
Observation: Recapping Friday’s Daily Focus, the Samaritan woman and her fellow villagers return to the well. John tells us that many already believed based on the woman’s testimony. So rather than interrogate Jesus, they invite him to stay with them, and he obliges with a two-day visit. As they listen to his message and spend time with him, many more believe he is the Messiah, i.e., “Savior of the World.”
Today’s devotion marks a return to Galilee—avoiding Nazareth at this point because, as John paraphrases Jesus, a prophet receives no honor from the people of his hometown. But the Galileans, many of whom witnessed his prophetic ministry at the Passover in Jerusalem, welcomed him. So he first revisits Cana, and when an official from Capernaum learns that Jesus is in Cana, the official travels the twenty-five-mile overnight trek to plead with Jesus to heal his deathly ill son.
Initially, Jesus admonishes the official for his weak faith, which depends on signs and wonders (likely seen at the Passover), but this desperate father persists with his request. So Jesus tells him to go home, for his son will live. Believing in Jesus’ promise, he returns home, and the next day as he draws near, his servants meet him with the good news that his son is recovering. So the official inquires about the time of his son’s recovery, confirming it aligned with when Jesus said, “Your son will live.” Hence, the power of Jesus’ words sparked a greater faith in the official, who then testified all that transpired to his family, and all believed in Christ. John then concludes this segment of Jesus’ Galilean ministry with a note that the healing marked Christ’s second miraculous sign.
Takeaway: Regarding returning to Cana, John offers no explanation. Still, Jesus likely revisited to expand his kingdom from the seeds he planted when performing the first miraculous sign at the wedding—particularly in light of his recent teaching to the disciples regarding how the fields are ripe for harvest (vv.35-38).
Matthew (13:57) and Mark (6:4) also record Jesus’ disappointment that a prophet receives no honor from his hometown. Chronologically, Jesus expressed his dismay later in his Galilean ministry when visiting Nazareth. But John arranges Jesus’ paraphrased words to explain why Jesus initially disparaged the official’s immature faith. Nevertheless, since the official persisted with his earnest request, Jesus obliged.
As for Jesus’ seemingly harsh response to the official’s distressed request for his son, theologian Merrill Tenney suggests that Jesus was working toward a greater purpose: “He desired a belief characterized by dedication rather than amazement, and the second half of the episode shows that his aim was to inculcate a genuine commitment rather than merely to perform a cure” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: John, p.60). And to further aid the official’s maturing faith that is not dependent on a sign, Jesus sends him away alone with the assurance his son will live rather than travel with him as requested.
Our takeaway? The official decided to leave without Jesus by his side, trusting in Jesus’ promise. Thus, he would learn an important lesson: he can trust Jesus’ words without seeing Jesus perform a miracle. It is no different for us. By the grace of God through the martyrs who preserved the Scriptures for us, Jesus still speaks to us with words that challenge us, mature our faith, and strengthen our hope. Indeed, John later writes in his Gospel that Jesus tells doubting Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (20:29 ESV).
Like the official, we will turn a corner in our faith journey when we trust without demanding a sign. As is often the case, once we step out in faith, we will later receive confirmation that we are on the right track, if helpful to our faith journey. And like the official, these special moments will inspire us to share the good news with others and spark their faith journeys (or mature them in the faith), for no signs are required to witness the miracle of a transformed heart.
Prayer: Father God, thank you for your Son who did not demand signs from you to take each faithful step in his ministry. And we thank you for your Holy Spirit, who provides confirmation when needed. So would you please help us walk by faith and not by sight, trusting in the guidance of your Holy Spirit through prayer, the counsel of godly believers, and your and your Son’s living words found in Scripture? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling