Jesus’ purpose for the nobleman was not simply for his little boy to be healed. Jesus’ deeper purpose for this man, and his whole household, was to have eternal life. So the Lord challenged the royal official to a stronger faith, to take Jesus at his word, even without any visible change or sign.
“Don’t just believe in what I can do for your little boy,” Jesus was saying. “Believe in Who I AM.”
Jesus, because he is God, could easily restore life at a distance. The word of his power spans distance, time, life, and even death, as he would later reveal in all four gospels. The healing power of Jesus is not limited by geography. He is never so far away that he cannot answer our prayers.
Jesus spoke just a few powerful words, go, your son lives. Does it not seem like Jesus wanted this miracle to seem as unmiraculous as possible? “You don’t have to see to believe. First believe—then you will see,” Jesus seemed to say.
John called this Jesus’ second sign, but possibly the real miracle is what happened in the official’s heart.
The person believed-and-put-his-faith-in the word (logos) which Jesus said to him, then departed.John 4:50
There are two words John could have chosen from to write the word “word.” Rhema, or logos. I think John was conveying something of the rich depth and potency of a logos coming from The Logos. In fact, the nobleman’s belief was so certain he did not even speak, he got up and headed for home in the sure knowledge his son was now on the road to recovery.
Here is an illustration of true faith. He believed without the evidence of a sign or miracle. This is what Jesus considered to be a strong and sure faith, like the Samaritans’ faith, for the man’s confident departure marked his worship of God in Spirit and in truth.
Meanwhile, in the moment Jesus spoke the boy was healed. The knees of the whole household must have buckled at once, and there was a great whoomp as everyone fell to floor in dismay. If we were to have pulled far, far back so we could observe both Capernaum and Cana at one time, we would have watched the ebullient nobleman begin his long journey home with renewed energy while his slaves, twenty miles away, burst through the doors of his home to meet him along the way.
Considering the great distance, it seems the royal official spent the night somewhere along the way. His slaves found him on the following day, for when they delivered their stunning news, he asked them when it happened, and in his inimical fashion, John recorded the exact moment,
Therefore, he asked the hour from them in which he [the son] had begun to mend.
Thus they related to him that “Yesterday, seventh hour, the fever forsook him.”Conversation between the royal official and those enslaved in his household, John 4:52
It took a moment to sink in.
His son had not begun to recover. What Jesus had said to him was not simply a prophecy (though that would have been powerful enough). What Jesus had uttered was a word so potent it had traveled through space and time, swifter than sound, swifter even than light, so swift that in that very moment of being spoken it infused the boy with life itself, the very fruit of the tree of life, of all that is whole and complete.
The father thought his son would gradually improve, but above and beyond his expectations, the boy was not simply in recovery. He had been miraculously released from the fever, and from the very grip of death which had been sapping him of life as all helplessly looked on.
What was happening within the nobleman in that moment brings to mind something intriguing the apostle Paul wrote about the process of spiritual growth.
For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.”Paul, in Romans 1:17 (NRSV)
Crisis of Faith
The royal official had started out with a crisis of faith. He was about to lose his son and he had nowhere else to go to but Jesus.
His crisis of faith became confident faith when he decided to take Jesus at his word. He believed Jesus and experienced peace in his heart. He was even able to delay his trip home rather than rush off in an anxious panic, walking through the night, because of his confidence in Jesus’ word.
Then his confident faith became confirmed faith when he found out that his son had been completely healed, and at the very moment Jesus had spoken the word.
The nobleman shared his own story and Jesus’ powerful response, first with the slaves who had come to meet him, then, when he had returned home, the rest of his family, resulting in the conversion of his entire household. The royal official moved his faith from Jesus’ specific power to heal a sick boy, to a deeper faith of Jesus as the Messiah.
It was not until the whole story was told—the story of belief in Jesus—that John revealed this miracle of healing as instead a miracle of faith, Jesus’ second sign.
Remember John’s goal for this gospel?
John was carefully laying down the groundwork, sign by sign, saying by saying, “These things have been written in order that you all would believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and so that believing you all would have life in his name.” (John 20:31)
Meeting the spiritual need is always Jesus’ priority
Even as I wrote that, I realized the Spirit is speaking deep into my own inner being.
People of faith still have crises of faith, where it seems as though everything we thought we understood has been turned inside out, and even “up” and “down” are no longer where we thought they were.
In what ways is the Lord moving me from faith to faith?
If you (like me) are experiencing a crisis of faith, then what word of Jesus—what logos from the Logos—do you and I need Jesus to speak to us?
Maybe you are already there, maybe you have received that logos from Jesus, and have moved to confident faith? Then what do you need to do right now, because you trust Jesus? How are you to move forward, showing you trust the word Jesus gave you?
But maybe (and what a glorious place to be) you are experiencing confirmation of your faith? Then who around you needs to hear you say so, telling them the magnificent things that Jesus is doing right now?
True satisfaction is not found in having our needs met in the way we think they should be met.
Yeah, I know. That does not feel like a very encouraging word.
Relief may feel like satisfaction for a while. But true satisfaction, the deep and lasting kind, can only come through faith in Jesus, personally relating to Jesus and responding to him in faith, living it out because you believe.
[Royal Official’s Son | James Tissot / Public domain]