43 After the two days he departed for Galilee. 44 (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) 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.
Jesus Heals an Official’s Son
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. 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. 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. 51 As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. 52 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.” 53 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. 54 This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee. – John 4:43-54 ESV
Outcast Revival Concludes
Jesus has just spent two days in Samaria, and he is now leaving for Galilee. The time in Samaria was spectacularly successful. It appears that the whole town of Sychar was turning to Jesus as the Messiah and the Savior of the world. The focus there is not on his miracle-working power, but on his word. “We have heard him for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world” (John 4:42). Strangely, this is a better response than anything Jesus has gotten among his own Jewish people.
Many times people declare that Jesus only came to save the Jews and right here in John we see that this is not the case. If we recall, the Samaritans were outcasts, cross-breeds, and Jesus goes into Samaria and has love and compassion on them, as much as his own, the Jews.
Galilee is where Jesus grew up in Nazareth. About 10 miles north of Nazareth was Cana, where he turned water to wine (back in chapter 2), and about 15 miles east from Cana was Capernaum where the official with the sick son in this story lives. So Galilee is Jesus’ homeland in a special sense. He is leaving Samaria, which is not his homeland, and turning now to his own stomping grounds.
Where would you consider your homeland?
Some bible translations aide us in understanding this context better than others. Some start with the word ‘now’ or ‘for’. Which helps link the two verses together for clarity. The word “for” and means the verse is a reason for why Jesus is going to Galilee. “After the two days he departed for Galilee. For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.” From this we can say that Jesus intentionally goes where he is less honored than in Samaria. He’s coming again to his own people knowing that they don’t understand him and don’t honor him for who he is. This situation will repeat itself many times through all of the Gospels. Apostle John gave us this concept in his prologue:
He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. – John 1:11 NASB
Even if the concept of leaving Samaria, where things are going good in sharing the offer of Living Water to where it is going to be challenging is strange to us, it was not for Jesus. It was part of the plan from the beginning. He intends to keep offering himself to his own, and overall his own will not receive him. This will, in the end, get him killed. Which is why he came.
The second strange thing that needs explaining is the way verse 44 connects to what follows. He goes to Galilee, his own people, because he expects no honor there.
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. – John 4:45
Is that really what we would expect from what we just learned? They’re supposed to dishonor him. How can John say, “A prophet has no honor in his own hometown, therefore they welcomed him”?
It could be that we are just reading superficially, from the top down, but not into the situation. There is a kind of receiving Jesus that has no true honor for his person in it, but in his signs and wonders. This is not new in John’s Gospel. We’ve seen it before. Do you remember John 2:23–25?
23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing. 24 But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men,25 and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man. – John 2:23-25 NASB
They “believed,” John says, but this was not a kind of faith that Jesus accepted. It was simply an excitement with his miracles, not what they pointed to, namely, his beauty and glory as the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior of the World—the things that the Samaritans saw, even though the emphasis there didn’t fall on miracles, but on his word.
Can you identify any situations that are similar to the “miracle seeking”? Have you ever caught yourself in a situation where the motives behind the gathering seemed a little strange?
He comes to his “own”, his own brothers, and they are welcoming Jesus, but they don’t understand him. They don’t have eyes to see. And so they don’t honor him, even though they make much of him as a miracle-worker.
It says, “when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing.” They welcomed him because they had seen works of power in Jerusalem. Jesus is coming to these very people knowing this is their attitude. And when John mentions Jesus’ coming to Cana in verse 46, he draws our attention to the fact that this is the place he had done his first sign in Galilee by turning the water into wine.
A Passionate Father
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. 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. 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” – John 4:46-48 ESV
It might seem like John is turning our attention away from this sign-seeking attitude of the Galileans when he tells us that the official shows up. But that just might not be the case, in fact, he is going to make his strongest indictment of the Galileans here.
Jesus does not address the man only. He addresses the whole group he has been talking about, the whole region of his own hometown. And now he says explicitly what we’ve been arguing. Verse 48:
“Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”
Jesus cuts right to the chase and calls it what it is; He calls them sign-seekers and “wonder-worshipers.” He calls them out by saying you say you believe, but your belief, like those folks in Jerusalem in John 2:23 and like his brothers in John 7:5, is not real belief that honors Him.
Some may call it belief, but it’s not the kind that unites a person to Jesus as one who sees and treasures Him as the Son of God, full of grace and truth. In fact, it dishonors Jesus.
So who is this official? Was he in that crowd who believed but didn’t believe? Believed as a sign-seeker, but not as a Savior-seeker? A lover of Jesus’ power, but not a lover of his person? It seems like Jesus tests him. The official is asking for a miracle for his dying son in a time where people love to see miracles. And he seems to be asking for the same reason any unbelieving person would love to see a miracle, I have a health need, fix it. Not: I have sin, forgive it, and give me power to live for you.
Do you catch yourself going to Jesus often for miracles rather than transform and revelation? How do you receive and interact with those that seem to just be pleading for miracles in their life?
We have come to experience and understand that unbelievers don’t love God; they use God. So Jesus bluntly says to the man: “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” How does the official respond to Jesus’ statement?
The man does not justify his need, he does not expound on the situation, but just repeats his need. How does Jesus respond?
Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way. – John 4:50 ESV
What is remarkable about this is that the man had asked Jesus to come with him. But when Jesus simply spoke, “Go; your son will live,” the man obeyed without a question. He believed and went. He did not insist on seeing the miracle. He did not complain that Jesus would not come with him. And amazingly, he simply left, John says, believing. It must have been an incredible face-to-face encounter, in spite of his accusations, something awakened in the man. He saw something more than a miracle-worker.
Then the next day we get the confirmation of the healing at the very hour when Jesus spoke the day before. And the confirmation reestablishes the man’s faith, and his household believes also.
51 As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. 52 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.” 53 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. – John 4:51-53 ESV
Can you share of a recent time when you got a confirmation that Jesus had been working in your life? Where maybe it was not apparent at first, but later the dots were connected?
What can we learn from this story?
We face situations in our life, whether others or our own, where we want to see a miracle. Where something needs to change. We focus on this side of heaven and almost put a challenge to God, “you have to do this, or else”. As we mature as Christians we begin to transform from that demanding follower to confessing follower. We can get to a point where we ask for revelation, “show me God with your eyes, what is going on”; “what can I learn from this situation?”; “what do you want me to do in this situation?”; “how can I be your hands and feet?”.
This is John’s first healing miracle, and it was not done in the physical, face-to-face, laying on of hands kind. Jesus simply spoke it, and the boy was healed. This radiates the omnipresence of Jesus. To heal and change things that are not where he is physically at. Also, to those that heard the encounter, many did not even see the miracle. The man headed back home and experienced the miracle and his whole family believed. Can we see Jesus focus on individuals, and not the masses?
From this story we are reminded to keep our requests and desires clear and focused on Him, not us.
Desiring God – http://desiringgod.com
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.