John 4:43-44 – After the two days he departed for Galilee. (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.)
Back in verse 3 of this chapter, the author tells us that Jesus departed from Judea on his way to Galilee. He left Judea (the area where he was ministering/baptizing) because of hostility from the Jewish leaders, particularly the Pharisees. Taking the most direct route to Galilee, he and his disciples passed through Samaria where they wound up spending two days ‘harvesting’ souls for the kingdom.
At the end of two days, Jesus and the disciples resumed their journey to the region of Galilee, bypassing the city of Nazareth where Jesus was raised.
Why did Jesus choose to bypass his home town? Because he knew he would not be respected or honored there. This is a general rule which was true of many holy men and women in the scriptures. For example, Joseph was despised by his brothers when he began to have prophetic dreams (Genesis 37:5-8) and David was distained by his brothers when he was moved to fight Goliath (1 Samuel 17:28-29).
The root cause of this type of rejection is most likely pride and envy. People do not want to be instructed, corrected or ruled over by those they knew as children.
Just to be clear, Jesus did not bypass Nazareth because people might hurt his feelings. The problem was an attitude of unbelief, springing from the sinful hearts of the townsfolk. Their overwhelming and vehement unbelief would prevent or halt any ministry that Jesus desired to work in their lives. As a result, ministry in that place at that time would be ineffective.
You may find the same type of rejection when you try to minister to some people in your family. If so, don’t worry. God will either bring someone else into their life to share the message, or bring them to a place where they are willing to allow you to share the gospel with them.
John 4:45 – 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.
Unlike the people of Nazareth, the Galileans are eager to welcome Jesus and embrace his doctrine.
This is a wonderful example of God’s promise to Isaiah that his word/message is never unfruitful – it ALWAYS accomplishes his will.
Isaiah 55:11 – So shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
This is of great comfort to us as well. Even when you don’t think your testimony is making any difference, it is! Keep planting and watering the seeds of the gospel and Holy Spirit will eventually bring forth a harvest for the kingdom.
In this particular case, the Galileans had first heard Jesus/the Word (John 1:1, 1:14) when they traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover. In Jerusalem, they witnessed his miracles and heard some of his teaching, which activated/strengthened their faith and made it possible for them to receive the message/gift of eternal life.
Did you catch the hidden significance here? Obedience brings blessing. God commanded all Jewish males to present themselves at his temple three times a year (Exodus 23:17). No doubt, there were many Jews who did not obey this command. No doubt, they had many fine excuses for not obeying (I’m too busy, it’s too expensive, I hate crowds, etc).
But those who did come were blessed. They encountered God and discovered things about him which would not have been revealed to them otherwise. They positioned themselves to receive both spiritual and physical gifts and blessings.
Are you walking in obedience to all that God has commanded you? If so, you can live in a state of expectancy because God does not change. He still has physical and spiritual gifts/blessings reserved for those who walk in obedience.
Again, let me ask you: Have you positioned yourself to receive these treasures? The Galileans did, and they were not disappointed! However, if you refuse to place yourself under the open window of heaven, then don’t complain or blame God when you don’t receive!
John 4:46 – 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.
John now begins to relate a specific miracle which the other gospel writers only mention in passing (Matthew 4:23).
It involves an official (your translation might say ‘nobleman’), who lived in Capernaum, approximately 20 miles from Cana. Many opinions have been given as to the identity of this man. Some identify him as an officer in the court of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee. Others think he was Chuza (Luke 8:3) or Manaen (Acts 13:1), but there is not enough evidence for a definitive identification.
What we do know is that this man was a father, who had a sincere love for his son. We also know that the son had some kind of serious illness, which could not be cured by the medical profession of that era.
John 4:47 – 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.
I believe that every parent reading this post can sympathize with this official. He is desperate to save the life of his child, and he will do anything, go anywhere, pay any amount and try anything in order to make that happen.
Fortunately for him, he has heard testimonies of people who have been touched and healed by Christ. These testimonies cause his own faith to activate and he sets out to find Jesus and beg him to come to Capernaum.
This brings up an interesting point. Obviously, the official has a measure of faith, but there is certainly room for growth. He believes that Jesus can heal his son, but he believes that Jesus must come to Capernaum in order to do so.
In his mind, the power of Jesus is connected to his bodily presence. In other words, Jesus had to be right beside you, or perhaps touching you in order to heal you; therefore, Jesus’ power was limited.
This in turn suggests that the official viewed Jesus merely as a prophet of God who had the ability to work miracles in order to prove that he was from God. The man does not understand that Jesus is the Messiah, the incarnate Son of God and nothing is impossible for him; there are no limits to his power and ability.
As we pointed out in our introduction, the divinity of Jesus is one of the main focuses of John’s gospel. One of the reasons Jesus healed this boy may have been to show that his power was not limited; because he was divine he could heal people in any location on the globe with just a word.
John 4:48 – So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”
Jesus now offers a rebuke not only to the official, but to all the Jews who were present.
By this time there were many, many credible testimonies of the miracle working power of Jesus; there was ample proof that Jesus had been sent from God. The logical outcome was for the Jews to listen to the teaching of Christ and apply his instruction to their own personal lives. Belief in his word/doctrine should lead them to deeper spiritual wisdom and understanding.
But instead of maturing spiritually, they continued to crave demonstrations of the miraculous to satisfy their own curiosity and desires.
The apostle Thomas (aka Doubting Thomas) demonstrates this same weakness and lack of faith when he refuses to believe Jesus has been resurrected, despite the credible testimony of the other apostles.
John 20:25 – The other disciples therefore said unto him [Thomas], We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
The desire of these people for miracles was in sharp contrast to the Samaritans, who believed in Jesus as the Messiah, without any miraculous demonstrations at all.
Jesus is calling the Galileans out on this in order to get them past the point of being spiritual babies. It is time for them to begin feasting on his word and maturing in their faith.
John 4:49-50 – 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.
Clearly, Jesus has heard the desperate plea of this father. He does not rebuke the man as a preface to denying his request. Rather, he uses this occasion to correct the fault that was preventing all of the Galilean Jews from exercising true/complete faith in him. As we will discover later, Jesus is not afraid to cause people a bit of earthly discomfort in order to bring about their spiritual good.
Meanwhile, the official continues to display ignorance and lack of faith. He urgently renews his request for Jesus to come to Capernaum; he does not believe that Jesus can heal from Galilee or that Jesus can help him once his son dies. It never even enters into the mind of the official that Jesus is capable of raising his son from the dead.
Nevertheless, Jesus honors the measure of faith that the official has. By simply speaking a few words, Jesus heals the boy who is 20 miles away without ever seeing him or laying hands on him.
This stunning demonstration of divine power wipes out the unbelief of everyone who was present. Their spiritual eyes are opened and they now perceive Jesus as the Messiah, the divine Son of God. Thus, the kingdom of God continues to advance on the earth.
As for the official, he departs for home in a state of peace and hope.
John 4:51-53 – 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.
As the official was making his way home, he was met by servants of his own household bearing good news – his son had recovered from his illness; there was no longer a need for Jesus to travel to Capernaum.
So… was the child healed by the power of God or some natural cause? In order to confirm what really took place, the father asks what time his son started to feel better. His servants respond by indicating that the fever left the child suddenly and entirely at 1 o’clock.
When the father realizes that a complete healing took place at the exact time that Jesus declared it, the miracle is confirmed! This was not a natural occurrence – Jesus had instantly healed his son from miles away!
As a result of this miracle the official’s entire household (wife, children, parents, servants, etc) believed that Jesus was truly the Messiah, the Son of God, and they become his disciples.
John 4:54 – This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.
What lessons can we take away from the demonstration of this second miracle?
For starters, we are reminded that God has infinite power to heal. The scriptures tell us that Jesus took stripes on his back to provide healing for us:
Isaiah 53:5 – But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
This is a verse we are all familiar with. We routinely refer to it when we pray for people to be healed. But much like the official of Capernaum, our thinking is often way too small and limited.
Let me explain. There is nothing in Isaiah 53:5 that limits healing to our physical bodies. Go ahead… read it again and see. The truth is that Jesus has not only provided physical healing for us, he paid the price for emotional healing, mental healing, relational/relationship healing, financial healing and any other healing we may need. He specializes in giving us beauty for the ashes we have in our lives (Isaiah 61:3).
And there is more good news. It doesn’t matter who or what was at fault. For example, if you went through a nasty divorce and you came out of that marriage emotionally scarred, Jesus is there to provide your emotional healing, even if you are partially or completely responsible for the situation. Hallelujah! Let your faith strengthen and grow. Trust in God for any and every kind of healing you may need.
Secondly, we need to understand that God’s power to heal is infinite and he always honors his promises, provided that we do not shut him out with our unbelief. In this passage of scripture we find Jesus chastising the Jews. The purpose of that was to bring them into a fuller measure of faith, which gives Him more room to work in their lives. The same is true for us. It is essential that we take every opportunity to stretch our faith, so that it grows and strengthens, preparing us for even greater gifts and assignments from God. Unbelief is one of the only things that can prevent God from working on your behalf.
Third, the official experienced a delay before his request was answered. Who among us has not experienced the same thing? But delayed answers to prayer always serve a purpose in our lives. They draw us into closer fellowship with Jesus. They mature our faith. They provide testimonies to those around us. They can actually bring people to salvation. Need an example? Consider Lazarus.
As you recall, Mary, Martha and Lazarus were siblings who all loved Jesus. In fact, Jesus sometimes spent the night at their house. One day, Lazarus gets sick to the point of death. Mary and Martha send word to Jesus that they need him quick! And what does Jesus do? He delays coming to them for two additional days, waiting for Lazarus to die.
The delayed answer to their prayers caused them anguish, yet God used their suffering to bring many people to Christ:
John 11:44-45 – And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a cloth. Jesus said unto them, Loose him, and let him go. Then many of the Jews who came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.
We will discuss this more fully when we arrive at chapter 11 of John’s gospel, but just so you know, if God has delayed in answering your prayer it isn’t because he didn’t hear you. It’s because he is doing something much greater than you can imagine.
Finally, we note that Jesus did not answer the prayer of the official in the way he expected (the same could be said of Mary and Martha). This was also true for the woman at the well when she asked Jesus for living water. We can expect the same thing. Again, the truth is that many times we ask for something that is too small; God answers us in another way because he desires to give us something much, much better or bigger or of more worth than what we asked for (Ephesians 3:20, Isaiah 55:8-9).
Let me offer you some encouragement:
In this chapter, we see that Jesus cured the official’s son from a distance. This was something that had never occurred before. Because it did not fit into the expectations of the people, it blew their minds!
Let me offer you this encouragement: Stop limiting God by your small thinking and small confessions! Paul tells us that God is able to do exceedingly and abundantly above anything we could ever think (Ephesians 3:20).
So who are you going to believe in your situation? The God of the impossible, or your friends who are telling you there is no hope?
Let me offer you some relief:
Jesus did not deny the request of the official because of his small faith. But he did bring about circumstances that would multiply the faith he had.
Perhaps you recognize a lack of faith in your own life. Let me offer you some relief – your faith can multiply and strengthen. Begin by reading and meditating on the scriptures (Romans 10:17) and look for opportunities to trust God.
Let me offer you some strength:
God is not adverse to delaying the answer to some of our prayers, for our greater good, or the good of his kingdom.
When the answer to your prayer seems delayed, that is no time to give up! It is time to dig your knees or face into the carpet and steadfastly continue to bring your request before the Father. Strengthen yourself, for in due season you will reap if you do not give up!