Summary: This is the second of a series of messages on the signs in the Gospel of John.
Take Jesus at His Word
"Jesus replied, "You may go. Your son will live." The man took Jesus at his word and departed... So he and all his household believed"
(John 4:50, 53, NIV).
John’s purpose for writing his gospel is found toward the end of the book in verses 30-31: "But these (signs) are written that you may
• believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God"
• and that by believing you may have life in his name" (Jn. 20:31).
What is a sign? Obviously they are miracles, but miracles with a purpose. In John the miracles
• are focused upon who Jesus is, that is, the preexistent one sent from God.
• are divinely empowered acts or words which demand a decision for or against who Jesus is, that is, the preexistent one sent from God.
• elicit wonder, a puzzle, and to some looking on a misapprehension.
Signs contribute to the stages of faith; but they are never an end in themselves.
I. This Man Came to Jesus
The fist thing we note is that this man came to Jesus. He lived in Capernaum, about 20 miles from Cana. It’s not clear whether he was already in Cana on business or whether he traveled 20 miles from Capernaum specifically to see Jesus in Cana. He obviously had heard of Jesus and the miracles performed and was ready to try anything that would heal his son.
It is interesting that the man in our story today is described as a royal official. He is most likely a Roman official who was overseeing that area of Galilee in some capacity. According to Roman law, he would have had authority over Jesus, who was merely a peasant living in his jurisdiction. But he did not come giving orders, he came to Jesus in humility.
He was a nobleman, but he humbled himself and came to Jesus. There are many people who do not come to Jesus because they have to humble themselves to come. They have to admit that they cannot do it by themselves. They have to admit that they have a need. And that is hard for some people. If they could come to Jesus while standing tall and proud they would come, but when they have to come with head bowed they will not do it. This lesson teaches us if we are going to have Jesus meet our needs: we have to go to Jesus.
If you saw the movie with Tom Hanks entitled Cast Away, you know who Wilson is. Wilson is a volleyball which floated ashore in a package after the FedEx plane, in which Hanks was riding, crashed into the sea during a bad storm. Hanks plays Chuck Noland, a fast-paced FedEx executive who gets stranded on a remote island in the South Pacific after his plane crashes, with little chance for survival.
In trying to survive, he tries to start a fire with a sharp stick and cuts his hand severely. In anger, he takes the volleyball and throws it as hard as he can. When it lands he sees that his bloody hand has made an imprint that looks like a fiery head. With his finger he fashions a face in the blood — an idol, if you will. He talks to his new friend. You could even say he prays to Wilson as he attempts to make a fire.
All through the film he communicates with this volleyball, asking his help and currying his friendship. The interesting thing is that nowhere in the film does Tom Hanks every talk to God. He prays to the volleyball, but never to God.
Now, you have to ask yourself why he has more trust in a volleyball than God. But then you have to ask why other people trust in all kinds of things rather than God. They will talk to their friends. They will call Dr. Phil or Dr. Oz. They will read a self-help book, but they will not come to Jesus. Maybe the key word here is “self-help.” We have more trust in self-help than God’s help.
Yet, this royal official comes to see the Lord. But notice that his interest is only in his son’s health and not in God’s presence. Notice that he thinks Jesus must be where the boy is and to physically touch him in order to heal. So if we ask, “What does this fellow believe about Jesus?” our answer is: “Jesus is a first-rate magician, not the God who created the sun and stars with a mere word of power.”
In this story, Jesus seems to dismiss the official’s request. He brushes him aside as he says, “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe” (John 4:48). In the Greek , the word for ‘you’ is in the plural. Jesus is speaking to the crowd of curiosity seekers and not to this individual man.