Sometimes it takes a desperate situation to really get someone’s attention and help them to become serious about Jesus Christ. In fact, the Scriptures tell us the story of just such a person- a man who faced an issue of life and death that was so critical, it drove him to seek out the only One who could truly help…
“In the course of his journey through Galilee (Jesus) arrived at the town of Cana, where he had turned the water into wine. While he was there, a man in the city of Capernaum, a government official, whose son was very sick, heard that Jesus had come from Judea and was traveling in Galilee. This man went over to Cana, found Jesus, and begged him to come to Capernaum with him and heal his son, who was now at death’s door” (John 4:46-47).
The fact that this man was a government official tells us that he was a very important person in that area of the world. In fact, the word used to describe this official implies that he was actually connected with royalty in some way. Yet when he heard that Jesus was in the area, this high-ranking official humbled himself and begged Jesus to go with him to the town of Capernaum to heal his son who was close to death.
Now Capernaum was located about 20 miles (about 32 kilometers) away from Cana on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. To his credit, it must have taken a lot of humility (and/or desperation) for this royal official to seek Jesus’ help. After all, many people of Jesus’ day viewed Him as someone who was nothing more than a working-class carpenter (see Matthew 13:54-57, John 6:42, and John 9:29). But unlike some of the other political and religious leaders of his time, it seems that this man really did believe in Jesus and was convinced of His ability to help.
But Jesus responded to this man in a very unusual way…
“Jesus asked, ‘Won’t any of you believe in me unless I do more and more miracles?'” (John 4:46).
Now to some people, this may sound like an unkind response to this man’s desperate plea for Jesus’ help. After all, why would Jesus respond in such a way to someone who humbly came to Him for assistance?
Well to answer that question, let’s look again at what Jesus said to the man; He said: “Won’t any of you believe in me unless I do more and more miracles?” (emphasis added). What do you think Jesus meant when He used the term “any of you” ?
Well, Jesus was referring to the group of people that this official belonged to- the governing class and “social elite” of that time. For the most part, these were the people with power and money- and like many in these same groups today, they had little use for a man like Jesus and the message that He brought. So in his answer to this man, Jesus was simply stating the obvious- it sometimes takes a miracle before some people will really believe in Him.
The government official then replied to Jesus by saying this…
“The official pled, ‘Sir, please come now before my child dies'” (John 4:49).
The Doctor can imagine what this man was thinking in his mind- “Sir, I’m sure it’s very true that many people won’t believe in you without seeing a miracle, but my son is going to die if you don’t come with me right now!!” This whole scene is one of a very concerned father who is about to become frantic over the possible death of his son.
So in His response to this man’s plea for help, Jesus again did something very interesting- He denied his request but still gave him what he really wanted…
“Then Jesus told him, ‘Go back home. Your son is healed!'” (John 4:50a).
So Jesus denied this man’s request to go back to Capernaum but still gave him what he really asked for anyway. This tells us that it’s sometimes better to bring our requests to Jesus in a general way and then let Him handle the specifics. After all, He knows the things that we really need and the best way to meet those needs even before we even ask.
Here’s what happened next…
“And the man believed Jesus and started home” (John 4:50b).
That’s it- this man simply trusted Jesus to do what He said He would do. If this government official had insisted on trying to drag Jesus all the way back to Capernaum (as he originally intended) then he might have missed out on the answer to his request. Instead, he did something better- he simply chose to take Jesus at His word and allow Him to deal with the situation as He saw fit.
So this man believed the words of Jesus before he ever saw them come to pass. You see, for some people “seeing is believing” but when it comes to the work of Jesus is your life, very often the opposite is true- first you believe and then you see.
Now don’t miss what happens next because there’s more to this part of the story than may appear at first glance…
“While he was on his way, some of his servants met him with the news that all was well– his son had recovered. He asked them when the lad had begun to feel better, and they replied, ‘Yesterday afternoon at about one o’clock his fever suddenly disappeared!’ Then the father realized it was the same moment that Jesus had told him, ‘Your son is healed'” (John 4:51-53).
There’s something very revealing here that you might miss if you’re not paying close attention. Remember that it was only about 20 miles (about 32 kilometers) from Cana (where Jesus was) to Capernaum (where this government official’s son was sick). If the road was good, you could make the trip from Cana to Capernaum on foot in about 8 hours (or less if you were riding a horse).
Now the passage quoted above tells us that this man’s servants met him on the way back home and gave him the good news that his son had recovered from his sickness. But notice that this scene with the servants takes place on the day following Jesus’ healing of this man’s son. How do we know this? Well, this passage specifically tells us that the son’s recovery took place on the previous day around 1 o’clock in the afternoon.
Why is this important? Well, it illustrates just how completely this government official trusted in what Jesus said to him. Think about it- this man could have ran like crazy back to Capernaum to see if what Jesus said was really true. In fact, he probably could have made it back home before nightfall if he really wanted to.
But instead, it’s now the next day and he still hasn’t finished the relatively short 20-mile trip! Why? Well, the best explanation seems to be that this man felt that there was no need to hurry- in his mind, Jesus had taken care of the care of problem. This man’s actions clearly demonstrated that he truly believed what Jesus said was true and showed the kind of “faith demonstrated by action” that is really pleasing to God.