This story of Jesus’ second sign is linked (v46) to the first sign, changing water to wine. Both took place in Cana of Galilee, both are the only signs numbered (1st and 2nd), and both show Jesus apparently reluctant to get involved.
Prepare to listen. Quietly pause and prepare to receive the Word. When ready, pray: Lead me in your truth, and teach me.
Prayerfully Read John 4:46-54
46Then he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. 47When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.’ 49The official said to him, ‘Sir, come down before my little boy dies.’ 50Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your son will live.’ The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. 51As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. 52So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, ‘Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.’ 53The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live.’ So he himself believed, along with his whole household. 54Now this was the second sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee.
When a royal official (probably Roman, thus enemy to Jews) begged Jesus to come down and heal his dying son, he meant it literally. Cana was about 152 metres higher than Capernaum and about 27 kilometres (17 miles) south west. That’s not far if you can drive it. But walking it would take time. And, since it was already mid-day when the official begged Jesus, he wouldn’t get there until the next day. The father knew this, and that it would probably be too late for his son. Yet he still begged. Jesus, after a rebuke to the crowd (“unless you-all [is plural in the Greek] see signs…”), sent the man down with the words, “Go; your son will live.” The official had no choice but to believe Jesus’ words and go home with hope for what he couldn’t see—healing of his son.
Come down is a plea God hears often when God’s people are in distress. The psalmist cried out, “Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down” (144:5). The prophet begged, “O that you would tear open the heavens and come down” (Isaiah 64:1). As covid-19 continues its destructive, cruel path, we too can cry with this royal official, “Come down, O Lord.” And like the official, we will need to believe Jesus has indeed come down, even though we have no knowledge that anything has changed. We must take the long walk home in hope that healing will come, in some form or other. The official only discovered the next day that Jesus had healed his son.
Without proof, the father kept walking back home, one agonizing step after another. How does this story challenge you to maintain hope as you wait for covid-19 to disappear?
Respond to Jesus
These are trying times, Lord and so I too come to you and beg you to come down and heal our land, heal your world. Amen.
Go and live obediently in the world. Living by faith in Jesus’ words.
Reflection on Scripture has been a constant in my life ever since I can remember. Reflecting on Jesus in the Gospels has become a necessity to get Jesus right. Join me in reading John to see Jesus more clearly this Lent.