"So Jesus came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine.  And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum.  When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and implored Him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death."  John 4:46, 47.

He is called "a nobleman."  The word John used could mean a member of the royal family or a person who served in the royal court.  What we can be sure of is that a high official in the court of King Herod made a twenty mile trip to seek help from a man who grew up in the area as a village carpenter.  How could this be?  In the culture of that day the pride of those in high degree would have made this an extremely difficult and humiliating act.

Even more intriguing are the words of the nobleman that clearly indicate his belief that if he could persuade Jesus to come home with him that Jesus would heal his son who was at the point of death.  What brought him to this level of belief in Jesus?


We can assume the nobleman had heard about Jesus, the miracle worker, and called it superstitious chatter.  It appears that was the attitude of the royal family and most high officials who served in the court of King Herod.  But the testimonies of those who had heard, seen, and experienced the supernatural power of Christ continued to increase.  Jesus had made Capernaum, the nobleman's home town, His base of operations.  "...He came and dwelt in Capernaum..."  Matthew 4:13.  The gospels tell us that He preached in the synagogues; healed multitudes of sick from Galilee and Syria; cast out demonic spirits and called twelve men to be His special disciples.  (Matthew 4:13-25; Mark 1:14-34; Luke 4:31-41).  There can be little doubt there were times when this nobleman was an observer among the multitudes that gathered around Jesus.  His cynicism began to evaporate and he began to accept the idea that Jesus was a living expression of the supernatural.


Jesus and His disciples journeyed to Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover.  He made quite a stir by driving those out of the Temple who had changed God's house of prayer into a house of merchandise. (John 2:13-17) The religious leaders recognized this as a possible fulfillment of Malachi 3:1-3 and asked Jesus, "What sign do you show to us since you do these things?"  The answer of Jesus was, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up"  (John 2:18, 19).  It seems no one fully understood His meaning until He raised the temple of His body from the dead, ---not even His disciples.  (John 2:21, 22).

However, there were many who received some understanding about Jesus from the miraculous signs He performed during the Passover feast.  "...Many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did."  (John 2:23).  Yet, John's record makes it clear that this belief only reached the level of mental acceptance.  It fell short of saving faith.  "But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men..."  (John 2:24).  It is also worth noting that this mental acceptance of Jesus was strengthened by the temporary mental acceptance of the Pharisees.  The Pharisees were known for their literal interpretation and legal application of the Scriptures.  If they had discerned any flaws in what Jesus taught or the miraculous signs He performed they would have opposed Him vigorously.  Nicodemus was one of their highest ranking teachers and he spoke for the Pharisees as to their thoughts about Jesus, "Rabbi, we (Pharisees) know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." (John 3:2).

And so, a host of Galileans told their relatives, friends, and neighbors what they heard Jesus say and what they saw Him do.  The verse John wrote just before introducing the nobleman to us reads, "So when Jesus came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things He did in Jerusalem at the feast..."  (John 4:45).  The nobleman was a Galilean.  He was either one of those who observed Jesus personally or was informed by those who were there.  His growing mental faith in Jesus was confirmed...but it was not yet complete.


It was at this time that the nobleman's son came down with a deadly sickness.  His fever raged out of control.  Perspiration rolled from his face and body, saturating his clothing.  He grew weaker and weaker until he lapsed into unconsciousness.  He was obviously at death's door and the physicians despaired that they could revive him.  One thought came to the nobleman's mind and he asked, "Where is Jesus?"  Someone answered, "He has gone to Cana."  Without hesitation he rose and called for his horse to be saddled.  He hurriedly made preparations to depart.  As the nobleman urged his horse forward during the twenty mile journey a number of thoughts passed through his head:

"What if I am too late and my son dies before I can get Jesus to him?"
"Although I have seen Jesus heal others and have faith in His power to heal, will He be willing to heal my son?"
"What's the best way to approach Jesus to persuade Him to come to Capernaum?"

When the nobleman arrived where Jesus was his faith was again challenged.  He "implored Him to come down and heal his son..."  Jesus answered, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe."  (John 4:47, 47)  It must have been difficult for the nobleman to understand exactly what Jesus meant.  However, some things were fairly clear:

1.  Jesus was not 100% pleased with the motivations that drove the nobleman to come to Him.  Did the nobleman believe that healing his son was more important than anybody else's need"  Was making an abrupt departure to heal his son more important than anything else Jesus had to do?  Did the nobleman believe Jesus had to be physically present where his son was in order to heal him?  If these were the reasons that brought the nobleman to Jesus they fell short of what they should be.
2.  There is a clear inference that believing in Jesus based on His miraculous signs is an incomplete faith.  This is a re-emphasis of what happened in Jerusalem.  "...Many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did.  But Jesus did not commit Himself to them..."  (John 2:23, 24).
3.  We are informed in Romans 10 that saving faith "Comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."  (Romans 10:17).  To observe the miraculous signs of Jesus is a powerful call to have mental belief in Him.  To have saving faith we must (truly) hear the word of God.  Nicodemus gives us a perfect example.  He, and other Pharisees, knew that God had to be with Jesus in order for Him to do the signs He did.  Jesus insisted that man's greatest need is to receive  spiritual birth by the Holy Spirit in order to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5-7).  Jesus went on to tell Nicodemus what he had to do in order to experience that spiritual birth.  "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:14, 15).  There is evidence that Nicodemus heard this "word of God" and placed saving faith in Jesus.  After Jesus was "lifted up" on the cross Nicodemus and Joseph openly took His body down from the cross and provided temporary burial in Joseph's tomb.

What did the nobleman do?  It seems he acknowledged that his motives and his belief were imperfect and that he didn't know how to make them what they ought to be.  Yet, he threw himself totally on the compassion of Jesus and begged Him to meet the deepest need he felt in his heart at that time.  "Sir, come down before my child dies!"   Jesus spoke six words, "Go your way, your son lives."  This was a challenge for the nobleman to place complete trust in Jesus based totally on what Jesus said.


Up to this point the nobleman's faith has been like a smoldering heat.  Jesus calls for that faith to burst into flame, based on nothing else than belief in His word.  From the depth of the nobleman's innermost being there rises unquestioned confidence in the word of Jesus.  He is fully persuaded that his son has been healed.  How do we know?  He "Went his way" as Jesus told him, but a careful reading reveals that he did not go back to Capernaum immediately.  We find in verse 52 it is one o'clock in the afternoon.  It would only be a two hour horseback ride to Capernaum, but the nobleman doesn't get back there until the next day.  What did he do in the meantime?  He probably found a place among the people receiving the teaching of Jesus.  His soul was hungry to hear more of the world of God.


The next day the nobleman approached his home in Capernaum.  His servants see him coming and hurry to meet him.  Excitedly, they tell him, "Your son lives!"  He asks them about the hour his son began to get better.  "Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him."  In the culture of that time there were twelve hours of day beginning at 6:00 a.m. followed by twelve hours of night.  By our time that would be 1:00 o'clock in the afternoon.  The nobleman knew it was the same hour Jesus had said, "Your son lives."  He cannot restrain from telling this to his servants.  He hurries quickly to his house to rejoice with his family.  With boundless joy he shares his faith in Jesus.  As  result his entire household joined him in that faith.  That is not an unusual consequence when anyone comes to total faith in Jesus.

The question is, "Where are we in relation to faith in Jesus Christ?"  There was a time when Jesus marveled that His disciples had "no faith" (Mark 4:40).  He rebuked Peter with these words, "O you of little faith" (Matthew 14:31).  Jesus, the Son of God, is worthy of our faith.  We can't manufacture it.  There's only one way we can get hearing the word of God.  May this begin a commitment to daily hear the word of God.  To a Canaanite woman of Tyre Jesus said, "O woman, great is your faith. Let it be to you as you desire."  (Matthew 15:28).  She truly heard what Jesus said and acted on it in faith.

Copyright 2005 Thomas E. Berry
Scripture quotations from NKJV unless otherwise noted


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