The seventh and final testimony in this section of the Gospel of John comes from a royal official from the town of Capernaum in Galilee. He heard that Jesus had come to Cana in Galilee and begged Jesus to heal his son who was very sick. He testifies to us that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who is able to heal the sick and is worthy of our praise and worship.
The Cynical Galileans’ Salutation
Jesus was not anticipating as warm of a reception in Galilee as He received in Samaria. Whereas the Samaritans welcomed Him and believed that He is the Christ, Jesus knows that “a prophet has no honor in his own country” (4:44). When Jesus arrived, however, “the Galileans welcomed Him” (4:45) because they saw “all the things that He did in Jerusalem at the feast” (4:45 & 2:23). While this seems promising, Jesus knows that they are not welcoming Him as the Messiah but as One who can do signs and wonders. Remember, we were told in John 2:24-25 “Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.” They saw signs and wonders in Jerusalem at the Passover feast and they wanted Jesus to do great and miraculous things among them as well.
A Desperate Nobleman’s Supplication
The Galileans wanted to see signs and wonders and we are told “there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum” (4:46). This man “was imploring Him to come down to heal his son; for he was at the point of death” (4:47). Upon hearing the request, Jesus said: “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe” (4:48). That seems like an odd thing to say, doesn’t it? How can Jesus rebuke this man (and the crowd) while the man is begging for his son to be healed? Before we rebuke Jesus, let us remember that Jesus “knew what was in man” (4:25). Jesus detected a two-fold desire in the royal official: 1) the primary desire that his son would be healed and 2) a secondary desire to have Jesus perform a miracle at this house for everyone to observe.
Jesus rebuked this man and the crowd for demanding signs as a prerequisite for belief. Jesus will not be used by others because His sole mission is to do the will of the Father (5:19). Miracles are a means to an end, not an end unto themselves. In other words, while miracles bring obvious benefit to the one on whom they are performed (e.g., lepers healed, blind see), the miracles are designed to point towards Jesus and provoke faith in Him. This is why Jesus rebuked the man and the crowd of Galileans. Stephen Wellum has stated,
Biblically speaking, miracles are God’s mighty ‘signs’; ‘wonders’; and ‘works.’ In this sense, they are unusual and extraordinary events caused by God’s power that are demonstrations of God’s covenant Lordship…They reveal God’s character and perfections (attributes). They are also ‘wonders’ in that they demonstrate that God is uniquely (covenantally) present (Ex 15; Lk 5:1-10).
The Galileans wanted signs and wonders so that their life would be better; not because they worship Jesus as the Christ: the Son of God. D.A. Carson states: “the welcome the Galileans displayed was so dependent on miracles (unlike the faith of the Samaritans!), therefore on visiting Cana and being petitioned to perform a healing, Jesus detects in the royal official a welcome and faith that desires a cure but that does not truly trust Him.” Jesus rebuked the Galileans and the nobleman but that did not deter the man from persisting in His request. The royal official did not argue with Jesus, but pleaded with Him “Sir, come down before my child dies.” The man begged Jesus to be merciful.
The Merciful Christ’s Declaration
Jesus was merciful and showed His mercy in a way that required faith. Jesus did not go with the man to Capernaum, but said to the man: “Go; your son lives” (4:50). The royal official now had a crisis of belief and an opportunity for faith. Recall the royal official’s two-fold desire? Jesus’ response validates the first (selfless concern for his son) and rebukes the second (selfish desire for a miracle at his house in front of everyone). The man is promised his son will be healed, but he has to leave with Jesus’ promise; not Jesus himself. J.C. Ryle said, “Christ’s word is as good as Christ’s presence.”
The nobleman “believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off” (4:50). Jesus instantly healed the nobleman’s son and the nobleman believed it happened before he had verification. He started for home to see his healthy son. While on his way, “his slaves met him, saying that his son was living” (4:51). He inquired as to the hour of his healing and confirmed that it was at the moment Jesus said, “Your son lives” (4:53). Through this sign and the great joy it brought, the nobleman and his household believed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. The nobleman testifies that Jesus is worthy of worship.
Jesus’ signs are miracles that bring obvious benefit to the one on whom they are performed, but the miracles are intended to point towards Jesus and provoke faith in Him. Jesus’ signs were meant to testify to Himself and glorify God. Signs can inspire faith, but faith cannot be dependent upon signs and wonders. We need to learn from this section of Scripture and ask ourselves whether or not Jesus is a means to an end or an end unto Himself. R.C. Sproul said it this way of the Galileans: “They pursued Him for the benefit they could derive from Him without any sense of repentance for their sins, without any intent to bow to Him as Lord, and without any willingness to receive Him as the Savior.”
Why are you a Christian? Is it primarily because of what Jesus can do for you? Are you a Christian because you don’t want to go to hell? Do you believe that if you are a Christian, God won’t let anything bad happen to you? If God were to strip you of every earthly blessing would you still praise Him? Would you “curse God and die” (Job 2:9) or would you say, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21)? Christians are to “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom 12:1). Let us cast aside any notions of using Jesus for selfish gain. Let us surrender ourselves to Him and be willing to lay down our lives for Him and His glory.
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