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John 4:46-54, NIV
46 Once more he [Jesus] visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death.
48 "Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders," Jesus told him, "you will never believe." 49 The royal official said, "Sir, come down before my child dies." 50 Jesus replied, "You may go. Your son will live."
The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, "The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour." 53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, "Your son will live." So he and all his household believed. 54 This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.
February 13, 2011Cana is familiar to John's readers because that is where Jesus did his first miracle, among friends and relatives, at a wedding celebration. When the hosts ran out of wine, Jesus turned their water into wine that was better than the original.
In this passage we are introduced to an entirely different set of circumstances. We meet a government official, most certainly a Roman Gentile (In the Jewish world, a Gentile was one rung below a Samaritan). He was a man of influence and power, who has a problem he has no control over. His son is sick to the point of death.
This man has heard the talk about the Jewish miracle-worker. As we do when we have no where else to turn, he went looking for Jesus. Desperation can drive us to do things we would not ordinarily do. Unbeknownst to him, he walked into a field of controversy between Jesus and the crowds who followed him.
As the Roman official began to beg Jesus to have mercy on his son, Jesus let loose a wave of frustration which he had building up inside of him. It was an agony he felt deeply, one which would never be assuaged because it was true--except for his miracles, people would not believe that he came from God with good news from their heavenly Father. Without visible, tangible signs of his supernatural powers, they would not listen to his words of life, wholeness, hope and blessedness.
As was his custom, Jesus set aside his own concerns and looked deeply into the heart of this man. Go home in peace, he told him, your son will live.
More journal entries
December 7, 2001Jesus went back to Cana where he had turned water into wine at a wedding to which he and his mother had been invited. This time the story is about a royal official. That must mean Roman. The Jews had no royalty at this timeThe man's son was sick at Capernaum. His job kept him away from home, even at this critical family time. This imperial official came to Jesus and begged him to come and heal his son who was close to death.
Jesus sounds like he is scolding (maybe words meant for the crowd). Unless you see miracles you will never believe; or, that's all you want me for! But the father continues: "Please, sir, come before my child dies." In other words, say what you will but please come; in your presence my son will live. This influentialRoman was expressing faith and Jesus rewarded his trust. "Go, your son will live." The man believed Jesus and started home. While he was en route his servants met him with the wonderful news that his son had recovered.
What time did the fever leave him? 1 p.m. Exactly the time the father had spoken to Jesus and Jesus had said, "Your son will live." When this was made known, everyone in the household believed. . . What exactly did this Gentile household believe? That Jesus was the Jewish Messiah sent from the Jewish God?
This was the second miracle Jesus preformed after coming back to Galilee. The second miracle and it, too, originated in Cana.
This family got their son back from certain death. My brother's family is praying to get their 40-year old son back from the brink of death. Many families around the world pray their sons and daughters will recover from disease and other injuries. Jesus, what can you do about that? Can we continue to believe in You even as our beloved children die?
December 8, 1982
Jesus returned to Cana. I'll bet people brought him their jugs filled with water and asked him to turn it into wine! Did Jesus laugh at that or feel used?
Jesus, I don't think you ever should have started performing miracles, (maybe some healings excepted) because people followed you to see amazing things rather than to see God. Miracles made you popular for a day.People needed signs. Today we need answered prayers, then we, too, will believe. God answers prayer because he loves us, not to prove himself to us. Was it the same with miracles? Love makes all the difference.
Unfortunately, some people have faith in God only for what they can get out of him. God is so used and abused and its called religion. A do-it-yourself God who takes orders from us? A Jeannie in a bottle granting wishes. Forgive me when I am guilty of this sin. People haven't changed from Jesus' day.
December 9, 1982Jesus wanted to heal but didn't want people to become dependent on his miracles for belief. This was a miracle of compassion. The individual was more important than the crowds. Why did this Roman official think Jesus would heal his son? This was only Jesus' second sign in Galilee. What was the precedent that made him believe?
The official wasn't too proud to ask. Others probably snickered at what he was doing. Is this a sign of the father's love for his son? That he would do anything to save him. He begged Jesus. Jesus was reluctant because he knew people would just believe in him because of his signs. But the father persisted. He believed Jesus could help him and Jesus had compassion on his family.
On TV today people give testimonies of healings. These healings are promoted as proof we have a God in heaven who still cares for this world and has things under control. But does he? Why are some people healed, and others are not?
We are cautioned not to believe in God merely because we need a miracle. And yet what better reason is there to believe! And we shouldn't tell God what to do and expect God to do what we want. God starts by changing us, bit by bit, into an entirely new person. Transformation is the first miracle, actually a life-long miracle. As with the disciples, with Nicodemus and the woman at the well, all of whom were not physically healed of sickness yet their lives were radically changed. So with us; hallelujah!
My prayer is that this day will be converted by the spirit of Jesus to one of significance and joy, thanksgiving and peace, love received and shared. Amen.
December 10, 1982Jesus sounds like he is insensitive to this suffering, frightened father. His words fall on our ears like a rebuke. Was he talking to this individual or to the crowds? Was he testing for faith and persistence?
December 11, 1982
Desperation, tears, fear; the end of it all.Reassurance, comfort, hope, life, compassion; the beginning of it all.The prayer--the answer. Pain--the miracle of healing. Jesus made no demands on this family, other than faith. No "Sell all and follow me." Simply, "Go home, your son shall live."
December 12, 1982This father was not a disciple. He didn't mean anything special to Jesus. One encounter is all they ever had. Need is what brought this man to Jesus. His prayer was answered. What happened then? The man possessed faith, and the boy was healed because his father had interceded. But then what happened?
This is a familiar and universal story. Need brings us to our knees. In faith we ask and receive from God's hand. Then its all over and life goes on as usual. This miracle of Jesus saving the boy's life may not have transformed anyone's life! Just like some prayers of need, when answered, do not change the person's lifestyle in any lasting way. Life goes from crisis to crisis, with few deeds in between that express faith, love, devotion or service. Blessed the person who doesn't get what they asked for, but whose life was changed instead!
December 14, 1982It's all over now except the recounting of the details. And of course seeing the boy recovered. But we have short memories. The past is easily forgotten and the present taken for granted. The pain and agony of being sick doesn't get communicated easily either. Who wants to hear it anyway! Put is all behind you and face forward. Did the father take his son to see Jesus? Life probably got filled with other things and good intentions got buried underneath. Am I being pessimistic?
Strange--here is a man whose prayer was answered 100 %; his deathly sick son was recovered. And instead of feeling his joy, I feel sadness, pessimism, pity for this family. They took the gift and miss the Giver. Why do I react so negatively? I've enjoyed all the personal encounters in John's Gospel so far and responded positively. Then I come to this wonderful miracle of healing and . . . Praise doesn't flow naturally. I'm skeptical. There's short term joy, yes; but what happened then?
Short term is not good enough for me. I want a life-long encounter with Jesus. I never want to go back to having God on the periphery of my life again, and yet I realize how easily that can happen. It frightens me. I don't want to be like this family that took from Jesus in time of need and then lost Him by not sustaining the relationship.
December 15, 1982
What time did the fever leave my boy? Everything checked out. Proof sufficient for belief. There were no doubts, everything was clear and certain. Therefore everyone in the household believed.
What a contrast to the way Jesus called his disciples. He gave them no proof, nothing clear, no security or guarantees. His invitation sounded more like--Take a risk and follow me; as you follow you will believe, you will understand, you will see mighty works.
I would chose the latter. There was no miracle when John the Baptist pointed to Jesus as the Lamb of God, or when Jesus called Andrew, Peter, Phillip and Nathanael. No prayers nor great requests were granted for Nicodemus or the woman at the well; these were character transformations. Answers to prayers never prayed!
Am I looking at this passage fairly? Tomorrow I will write a positive account, For example, as long as this child was alive, for as long as he lived, he reminded people of Jesus. Well and good as long as Jesus was enjoying popularity; but Jesus died in disgrace. What did this family believe after that?
December 16, 1982What is wrong with me? I can't come up with anything positive on this second Galilean sign. This father and Roman official is lauded for his great faith and for knowing the right place to turn when he needed help. That is true, some of us don't even do that well, and Jesus is a last resort, not an initial, natural response.
So this man should be remembered for a very practical faith--He believed enough to ask Jesus to get involved in a personal, family matter. He took the chance--Jesus could have said no. It was Jesus' first healing in Galilee, the father didn't know Jesus would do it. It's interesting that he expected Jesus to travel to his home to see his son. Who was giving the orders in this episode--Jesus or the official?
Things were so "ify"; there was plenty of room for doubts. What made this man so confident?--first that Jesus could and second that Jesus would? Those are two different things. I always believed Jesus could. (I got that faith in my childhood, "God can do anything but fail." My grandmother had that motto hanging on the bedroom wall.) But believing that God would is another matter.Just since I've practiced a regular quiet time, have I begun to realize the "Jesus would" type of faith. And whatever Jesus would, is pure gift, given at his discretion. Do these gifts depend on my faith? Not entirely, not necessarily.
People who receive these gifts fall into one of two categories: Either God has chosen them, or they have chosen God. I am very reluctant to believe that God has chosen me, there's too much room for doubt. I have chosen him (like Nathanael) and Jesus has welcomed me.
The official--Jesus told him to go home. To me those are very sad words. Jesus had not chosen him, and the official never chose to follow Jesus. Most people feel relief at these words, "Go home". Jesus didn't detain him--good. Jesus didn't tell him to, "Stay with me for a few days first--then I'll heal your son."
But that's how Jesus answered my prayers following my operation. Not the way I wanted, but now, looking back, how beautiful it was. Thank you Jesus for not answering my prayer for healing last December. Jesus said to me instead--"Stay with me awhile, follow me, take my yoke, learn to love and trust me. Maybe I'll heal you later." So I settled in for a long recuperation, and the more I stayed with Jesus the less concerned I was with healing and getting a job, having a calling, significance and meaning, being loved.
So when I read about this official and the miracle of healing, I read my own experience into it. His story was beautiful, a testimony of daring faith, and cause for great celebration. But the sorrow of my experience is cause for celebration, too. The path you chose for me--the pain, disappointment, uncertainty, the immobility, kept me close to you over a long period of time and therein is the blessing you gave to me and which this official missed.
It must sound really weird to thank God for illness. But as it says in the 23rd Psalm, "You make me lie down in green pastures . . . ."