It Happened at One o'clock
Read John 4:43-54 in your Bible. I used the NLT to prepare this message.
Thomas Christianson wrote a blog entry entitled “Foxhole Christianity.” As this pretty well describes the father in this passage and many of us, I’d like to begin by sharing a bit of that blog with you.
“There's a famous saying, ‘There are no atheists in a foxhole.’
It means that when you're in a war and the shooting is happening, everyone tends to cast hope in something bigger than themselves - in a God who cares about their own wellbeing.
“It's hard for me to offer any criticism of someone with this disposition, because I think I have a remarkably similar mentality most of the time.
“I'll put it like this: my faith tends to be more integral to my everyday life when I'm in crisis than it is when I'm content with my surroundings.
“I tend to be more of a disaster Christian than a disciple Christian.
Disciples follow their teacher everywhere, in both the good and the bad. But I often treat God more like 911 - only calling when something has gone terribly wrong.”
In this sense, many of us can identify with the desperate dad in this passage. Let me challenge you by saying we should follow his example all the way through the passage, not just in the first few words out of his mouth. This man went from desperate to determined to dedicated; a journey we all need to take.
CONTEXT: Jesus returned home to Galilee after enjoying success in Samaria.
Jesus honored faithful obedience with a timely miracle.
1. Jesus was honored in Galilee. (43-45)
Jesus did not tarry in Samaria; He stayed only TWO DAYS (43). It might’ve been tempting to stay in Samaria a while and dwell on His success, but He did not. This detail communicates to us that Jesus was all business.
He had reason to expect a different reception in Galilee but was WELCOMED there (44-45). The word WELCOMED meant to receive someone with friendliness and openness. In Matthew 13:57 and Mark 6:4 Jesus said that a prophet was never welcomed in his hometown to explain why the people of Nazareth had such a negative reaction to Him. John did not report Jesus’ visit to Nazareth in his gospel, but he did report Jesus said something on this subject. (Technically, Jesus was born in Bethlehem in the province of Judea. However, as Jesus lived most of His life in Nazareth in Galilee, John never mentions Bethlehem as Jesus’ “hometown.”)
Was Jesus communicating His expectations or trying to prepare His disciples for disappointment? After all, they’d been witness to a string of successful encounters and the clearing of the temple (45); maybe their hopes were raised prior to going into Galilee (also home for many of them).
Some of them had been on hand for the recent Passover and had seen Jesus in action against the religious leadership that despised them and took advantage of them (John 2:13-22). They probably loved how He “stuck it to the man.” In fact, it was that very thing that had endeared Jesus to His fellow Galileans. They had a country versus city thing going with the Jews in Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Jews looked down their noses at their country brethren, especially Galileans, whom they saw as bumpkins. The Galileans resented that attitude and the expectation that they would travel to Jerusalem at least three times a year to observe feast days. Those pilgrimages undoubtedly consumes a lot of time and money, which increased the Galilean’s resentment of the Judean’s superior attitude.
2. Jesus’ second miracle was twice as impressive as His first . (46-54)
The second miracle took place in the same community as the first: CANA (46). John reminds us of the events in 2:1-12. He does not tell us of any connection between these two miracles other than their location. My guess is John mentioned this “coincidence” as an explanation of why the GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL turned to Jesus for a miraculous healing: he knew Jesus had already done a miracle in Cana. He desperately hoped would do another miracle, this time the healing of his son. Apparently, all other - more typical - means of healing had already been tried and failed.
Jesus was asked to perform a miraculous healing (47-53). Who is this GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL? (46) The term could also be translated as “nobleman.” It likely refers to a member of the court of Herod, popularly known as “king” of Galilee. Capernaum was near the border of Galilee and Judea. It was a place where many court officials lived. This man is a typical character in his situation.
John wrote the man HEARD JESUS HAD COME FROM JUDEA TO GALILEE (47). This may just be a way of saying, “He heard Jesus was back in town.” The man’s son was in Capernaum, a distance of 20 miles. We’re not told why the OFFICIAL was in Cana, but we do know his plan, his hope, was that Jesus would accompany him to Capernaum to conduct the healing.
What’s important here is the fact that he BEGGED Jesus to heal his son (47). The word BEGGED implies an insistent request, like the blind man outside Jericho who refused to be quiet until he got Jesus’ attention (Luke 18:35). We’re not told the nature of the son’s illness, only that he had a FEVER and was near death (52). The sudden relief of his FEVER marked the time of the son’s healing.
We’ll say more about Jesus’ first reply (48) later.
The OFFICIAL then PLEADED with Jesus to come to Capernaum to heal his son (49). The phrase LITTLE BOY may be a term of endearment more than a declaration of the child’s age.
It’s no act of imagination to see the desperation of the father, so imagine his reaction to Jesus’ final answer; “GO BACK HOME. YOUR SON WILL LIVE.” (50) This cannot be what he expected. His plan was undoubtedly that Jesus would accompany him to his home and do the miracle there. Did this feel like a rejection? Was he surprised or confused? Speaking for myself, I don’t like surprises or sudden changes of plan. I might’ve resisted or complained.
To his eternal credit, this desperate father had faith; HE BELIEVED WHAT JESUS SAID (50). The official’s choices at that moment were either to insist on Jesus’ returning with him which would look like disbelief, or to return home without any immediate assurance of his son’s healing, which required greater faith. He chose the second option, taking Jesus at His word. He was obedient to Jesus’ command. May the same be said of all of us.
He BELIEVED and he acted on that belief; he STARTED HOME. The whole household apparently shared the father’s eagerness to see the son healed; we see this in the fact that SOME of the official’s SERVANTS MET HIM on the road between Cana and Capernaum with very welcome news THAT HIS SON WAS ALIVE AND WELL (51).
Both parties immediately stopped to discuss what had happened. As they compared notes, they realized that the boy’s healing took place at the exact time Jesus pronounced his healing (52-53)! IT HAPPENED AT ONE O’CLOCK.
The significance of the miracle is set forth in verses 48, 53 and 54. The first measure of its significance is theological. We see this in Jesus’ initial response to the OFFICIAL, which might seem to us to be a little snarky (48). However, we know Jesus’ response is aimed at the wider audience because the verbs are plural, not singular.
The miracle was significant because it verified Jesus’ claims to who He was. This was one function of MIRACULOUS SIGNS AND WONDERS. Miracles were considered to be signs, demonstrations of divine power that convinced people the messenger was speaking on God’s behalf. Biblically, miracles were one way a prophet was authenticated. WONDERS are slightly different; these are interruptions of nature’s laws that prove the greater power of the Creator.
Already in John’s gospel the JEWISH LEADERS in Jerusalem demanded a MIRACULOUS SIGN from Jesus to prove His AUTHORITY to clear the temple courts of MERCHANTS and MONEY CHANGERS (2:18). Though he narrated only seven miracles in his gospel, John makes it clear to the reader that the miracles were important and here he explains why.
What is clear is that in his first reply to the OFFICIAL Jesus was trying to move this man and the others listening to a belief that does not depend on seeing SIGNS AND WONDERS in order to be convinced of the truth. In Matthew 12:39, Jesus condemned as WICKED those who sought a sign as a basis for their faith.
In verse 54 John simply noted this was the second of Jesus’ MIRACULOUS SIGNS and that it came upon His return to Galilee from Judea. This is the last time John will number Jesus’ miracles, even though the total is only seven.
The second measure of the significance of the miracle is found in vs. 53; the OFFICIAL AND HIS ENTIRE HOUSEHOLD (servants and extended family members) BELIEVED IN JESUS. We were told in v. 50 THE MAN BELIEVED WHAT JESUS SAID. That is, he believed Jesus’ promise of healing his son. Here we see a belief in Jesus as God’s Son. A deeper, saving kind of faith is described in v. 53. “Seeing is believing” we say. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who do not see and still believe,” (JHN 20:29).
Jesus honored faithful obedience with a timely miracle.
The father in this account serves us as a great example of faith in 3 ways.
One, though he was a powerful man who could have conceivably ordered Jesus to accompany him, this OFFICIAL chose to humble himself, begging and pleading instead. Likewise, true faith requires us to take our focus off ourselves and keep it on God instead.
Two, when the pressure was on, when things did not go as he’d planned, and people were watching, this desperate father chose to take Jesus at His word and be obedient. Similarly, if we are truly living for Jesus, there is no substitute for obedience; it is the chief way we demonstrate our love for God.
Third, when the man’s faith was rewarded, he did not keep it to himself. He impressed his faith upon his household and every one of them came to share his belief. We are to do the same; a faith possessed is a faith passed on. Witness to God’s work in us is not a secret we keep or a blessing we hoard; it is something we urge others to accept as well.
The Bible Knowledge Key Word Study, The Gospels, Darrell L. Bock
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, John, Merrill C. Tenney