John 4: 43-54: The second sign
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In the final incident John records in John 4 we see a tragedy in the making. Jesus is back in Cana and he meets a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum, a long distance away.
This is a serious illness. The man knows that his son is about to die. Perhaps it is genuine faith, perhaps it is a last resort…either way the man comes to Jesus and begs him to come to Capernaum and heal his son. Certainly, Jesus’ fame is spreading. People from the Galilee region had been in Jerusalem and seen what Jesus was doing there. But we also know that Jesus wasn’t sure of this welcome and the motives it was based upon (2:24-5).
This explains his statement in verse 48, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will never believe’. Jesus is challenging the man to truly see the signs and not just focus on the sign itself but to look to the one who is performing the signs.
The man responds to Jesus by simply repeating his request. He has no time to be offended or to debate the details, or perhaps even think about what Jesus says. His boy is dying. His love is apparent as he urges Jesus to help his child, the term being more affectionate than the previous ‘son’ in verse 47. The sadness and sense of urgency is very real.
Jesus’ next words are confronting when he commands the man to go, declaring that the son lives. This is not prediction but rather a declaration of power. No doubt the official was hoping for a miracle worker to accompany him to the boy’s bedside and give him a healing. All he gets is a word. Can this word be trusted? What choice does he have? The man takes Jesus at his word and departs.
The aftermath of the story comes when the man’s slaves meet him while he is still in transit the following day and bring him the news that his son does indeed live. The hour of the boy’s recovery coincided with the timing of Jesus’ declaration. Then we are told that the man and his household believed and John rounds things off by telling us that this is the second sign.
Once again, we are invited to see Jesus’ glory. This is a healing that is remarkable for its magnitude: a boy is saved while at death’s door. Whatever the illness was, it was clear to all that this was fatal. This is a healing that is remarkable for its power. The boy is saved by a word from Jesus, and not a touch or by any elaborate procedures, that were often a feature of comparative healings.
The first sign prompted belief in the disciples, the second sign confirmed or strengthened belief in the man and brought it about in his household. This sign points to the life that Jesus gives. Three times we are told that the boy lives. It is as if the man has received his son back from the dead at the word of Jesus, the divine, life-giving Messiah.
We may or may not see signs and wonders performed today. It doesn't matter. What we do have are the signs recorded for us in this Gospel. And we have the words of Jesus. This is enough to trust.
The man heard Jesus’ word and trusted. We are not told whether this was bold or weak faith. It doesn't matter. It is the who of faith and not the how that matters. The man took Jesus at his word and went. He is a model for us to do the same.
Our Lord God, thank you that your Son Jesus is absolutely trustworthy. Help us as we see his words and deeds to trust him with our lives this day and on into eternity. We pray this in the name of Jesus through the Spirit. Amen.
Pray with us today's prayer request:
Anglican International Development (AID), England, is undertaking an agriculture project for the Keliko people (originally from southern South Sudan) living in refugee camps in Uganda. The project works through the Anglican churches in the camps. So far, 5 farmers have received training and AID are helping with tools, seed, and land. Please pray for the project: for financial targets to be met; for the crops to flourish; for the Lord to bless the Keliko people despite their difficult situation.
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