Each of them had stayed the night with villagers, the whole town so eager to have them. As the afternoon drew into evening, blankets were spread, bread, olive oil, dried fruits and roasted grains were brought in bowls, lentil stews, ground garbanzo beans, and local wine were all shared in a festive meal. Jesus taught well into the evening hours, until only the crickets and their host families were left, and they each went in for the night with them.
Over the next two days, Jesus would lead them out to one or another of the nearby springs, to sit and talk as groups drifted in and out. On the third morning, Jesus gathered his disciples to him, and pointed to the road leading up to Galilee. It was time.
John must have pondered the experience. Here, the people of Sychar, Samaria, had somehow recognized something powerful about Jesus
They had not asked for healings, or miracles.
Yet somehow, they knew he was the Savior of the world.
Sensing John’s thoughts, Jesus began talking about the nature of people. “A prophet does not receive honor,” he told them, “in his own country, his native town.” John nodded pensively. They knew Jesus was more than a rabbi. The miracle of the wine had proven it. But Nathanael had already exclaimed it when they had first come together. “Rabbi,” he had said, in a voice filled with wonder and awe, “You are the Son of God, you are the king of Israel!”
It had knocked the breath out of them all. John had felt dizzy, and leaned on Andrew to steady himself. But then, in Jerusalem, the rulers had questioned Jesus. Even though later Jesus had healed many, and performed wonders, even though crowds had formed, and the news of Jesus had filled every kiosk, every tavern, still there had been that feeling of unease.
No teacher of the law or Pharisee would endorse Jesus.
So now, when local people began running towards them as they neared the Galilee region, their home country, John still felt uneasy.
What was their warm reception based on?
Or the signs?
Did they know who Jesus was?
Or were they just glad the miracle worker had come to town?
He recognized many of them, they had all been there in Jerusalem for Passover. He saw Shmuel come running on his new feet and strong and supple legs. There Abarrane was leading her three small children, round and sturdy, their illness forgotten. Davian, no longer wild-eyed and disheveled from the demon who had possessed him, now came in clean robes and a steady pace.
There were so many invitations to share a meal, to sit in the shade together, to have a drink, to speak in the synagogue, to bless and heal, to stay a while, the disciples felt overwhelmed. At least they were welcomed! But Jesus would not stay with any of them. Shaking his head, he looked to Nathanael and thrust his chin towards Cana.
Nathanael silently nodded. Yes, Lord.
And so they went, leaving people from all the outlying towns pleading with them, and calling out their appeals, “Please, my father-in-law is ailing!” “We will be having a wedding soon, you must come!” “Toomas, my only son, he is with fever . . .”
As they walked away, the voices grew fainter, and Jesus not once looked behind him. Soon, they had neared Cana and again people came running out to them. They, too, had been to Jerusalem for the Passover festival, but they had also by now heard of Jesus’ powerful and exuberant gift of wine for the wedding of one of their own.
Nathanael knew many here, for it was his hometown, all his family lived in Cana and his intended as well. Soon he was surrounded, laughing and talking, and turning back to point to Jesus. John caught his happy smile, but as they all headed towards Nathanael’s home, the unease of the morning continued to sit like lead in his middle.
They had settled in the inner courtyard, sitting in the shade of the eave, having a cool drink, when all of a sudden, a man burst through the crowd outside of the house, eliciting shouts from those he had shoved aside. His loud voice broke as he cried out to Jesus.
And there was a nobleman, whose son was weak and feeble with illness, in Capernaum. When he was hearing that ‘Jesus is coming out of Judea into Galilee,’ he departed; and was entreating [Jesus] in order that he would come down and heal his son, for he was about to die.John 4:46-47
This man was likely an official of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee. It is possible this is the same person Luke wrote about, Herod’s steward Chuza, whose wife Joanna helped provide for Jesus’ ministry. Or he might have been Herod’s foster brother Manaen, who was one of the early leaders of the church in Antioch.
Capernaum was 20 miles away, so this official had spent all day getting to Jesus. He was worried about his little boy, so he had come to Jesus for a miracle. It was his last-ditch chance to save his child’s life. Imagine the scene. Jesus was probably at Nathanael’s house with his disciples around him. Others were there because of Jesus’ fame for performing signs.
Now a royal official had arrived and wanted to take Jesus all the way back to Capernaum to heal his son.
Jesus had come to the door, and looked at the man before him, then out at the people crowding around the man. They all looked back expectantly.
Unless you all behold signs and wonders, you all will certainly not believe.Jesus, to the people crowded around them John 4:48
The knot in John’s stomach grew. Jesus’ face was drawn, his eyes glistened, his voice throaty. John felt it, too. How could Samaritans see the Savior, the King of all Creation, and these people, Nathanael’s people—and they had all drunk of Jesus’ wedding wine!—not believe, but instead ask only for healings?
The royal official was covered in the dust of his travels, his fine robes powdered a dull grey, his feet nearly monochrome with dirt. Streaks of sweat lined his face, and the hair across his forehead was matted. Real tears streamed from his eyes and nose, flying in drops as he fell to his knees, clasped his hands before Jesus, and wrung them.
“Sir,” the man choked out, now weeping, “Come down before my little child dies.” He hung his head nearly to the ground, then seemed to crumple into a shuddering heap.
John could smell the heat of the man’s body, and his own eyes stung with tears. They had come to stand by Jesus, to learn from him as his talmidim, but none could speak, and John looked away, unable to watch. As he looked down, the dirt of the floor slowly began to writhe with tiny worms of light and color. It was as though each granule of dirt had come to life and become a prism. Even the air had formed into swirls of light and color, all around him.
He looked back at the man, still quietly sobbing. All around him, the worms and swirls of color moved soundlessly. John’s eyes turned to Jesus’ face, almost golden with light. No one else seemed to notice.
“Go.” Jesus’ voice filled the room. The man looked up.
“Your son lives.”
As though no longer bound by the laws of gravity, the man rose up in one movement, his face reflecting the golden glow coming from Jesus. Brows unknit, tears dried, a smile transforming his whole demeanor, the nobleman took Jesus’ hand and pressed it between his own, then kissed the Savior of the world on both cheeks, and then gave a third kiss on his cheek, as though Jesus were his brother. Wordlessly, his eyes gave his thanksgiving, and professed his faith.
[The LUMO Project | http://www.freebibleimages.org]