Summary: Jesus doesn’t give every answer, and He sometimes sends us on ahead without any certainty that things are going to change. He doesn’t give a sign that will ease every doubt about our future, or worries about our family, or whatever else. Yet we can be confident in all that He has said.
How much power do your words have? I mean, if you gave an order or a command, would your words carry any weight? Maybe they would, if you’re a mom and you asked your son to empty the dishwasher, or if you’re in charge at the office and you told your secretary to draft a letter. You speak, and it gets done. In a certain context, under the right conditions, our words have power.
But what if you’re out of earshot? What if you also want your son to vacuum the kitchen, but you only think of it when you’re half an hour away, and you’ve forgotten your phone, and you can’t actually speak to him? You can say it all you like, even shout the command over the hills and valleys, but he won’t hear you, and it won’t get done.
Our words have a limited strength. That’s because we’re not omnipotent, far from all-powerful. Neither are we omnipresent, able to be present—and make our presence felt—in more than one place at a time. Our ability and authority are severely restricted by who we are as weak and mortal human beings.
Not so with God, of course. And not so for Christ. His words have power, even power over a great distance. That’s what we see in our text, as Jesus heals a man’s dying son. As with any story about Jesus, it’s easy to stop appreciating the wonder of what is happening here. Of course Jesus can heal him! Of course all He has to do is say the word! He’s Jesus, after all! But we miss something important if we’re blasé about what happens.
This healing is a sign. And the signs in John’s Gospel all point in a certain direction. They announce a clear message. They call us to take action. So let’s give careful attention to the healing of the nobleman’s son. For in this sign we see the amazing power of Christ’s words. He can speak, and it is done. By his word He grants life to those who are dying. This is our sermon theme from John 4:46-54,
Jesus gives life to the dying son of a nobleman:
1) the hopeful request for help
2) the unmistakable power of Jesus’s word
3) the expanding reach of this miracle
1) the hopeful request for help: Our text begins with a reminder of the first sign that is recorded in John: “So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine” (v 46). He’s back in the small village of Cana where He had first shown his glory.
Time has gone by, of course. And Jesus has performed other miracles since then. This is what Nicodemus says to Jesus in John 3:2, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Listen carefully: “these signs [plural] that you do.” Jesus has been busy since the beginning of his ministry, not just turning water into wine, but healing the sick, and casting out demons, and much more.
But John has chosen to focus our attention on seven specific signs. He wants to linger over them and carefully draw out their meaning. The first sign showed Jesus as the holy Bridegroom, who brings his people true cleansing and lasting joy.
Now Jesus is in Cana again, and He is going to unfold another aspect of his glory. For what happens when an outsider approaches Jesus? Does Jesus have something to give to people who aren’t acceptable by our standards? In other words, are strangers also invited to his wedding feast, invited to share in the joy between Christ and his bride? That’s what we’re going to see.
John says, “There was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum” (v 46). The word ‘nobleman’ needs a bit of explanation. The Greek word behind it means something like a ‘royal official.’ Now, that’s either a person who is born of royal blood, or it’s an official who is in the service of a king—and probably the second is more likely.
The man who comes to Jesus is probably an officer in the service of Herod Antipas, who was in charge of Galilee.
Working in Herod’s court, he’s a man with connections. He might have been a Gentile, though John doesn’t say so. But even if he’s a Jew, it’s quite likely that his work for Herod made him distinctly unpopular. Herod Antipas was a ‘puppet king,’ someone appointed by the occupying Romans to take care of business in the region. But the Romans were not well-loved, and neither was Herod, and neither was anyone who worked for him. That’s why I called this man an outcast, a persona non grata—in the same underclass as the taxmen and toll-collectors.