Today we come to the end of our study of John 4. If we were given the assignment of reading John 4:43-54 and then coming up with a title for the story, most of us would title it, “The healing of the royal official’s son.” I’m not sure that’s how Jesus would describe His encounter with the royal official. I believe the reason we would focus on the healing of the son, who was near death, is because we are drawn to that which we perceive to be extraordinary, exciting, spectacular, phenomenal, marvelous, and miraculous. As we read the story I think you will see that not one thing has changed when it comes to human nature. Let’s read our Scripture for this morning and then we will see what we can learn.
43 After the two days he left for Galilee. 44 (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) 45 When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, for they also had been there. 46 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. 48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” 49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.” 53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed. 54 This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee. (John 4:43-54 NIV)
In our Scripture for today we are told that after Jesus spent two days in Sychar, with the folks in Samaria, He left for the area called Galilee. What we learn about Jesus in verses 43- 44 seems so strange to us. Jesus left for Galilee even though He knew “that a prophet has no honor in his own country.” This seems so strange to us because we would never go where we were not wanted. Jesus had been so warmly welcomed by the folks of Samaria, why would He leave the fertile field of the Gentiles and go to the place where He knew He would be rejected? The answer to that question is quite simple: Jesus was not concerned with success, He wasn’t living for the applause of the masses—He simply wanted to do God’s will.
When we read the very next verse it seems to contradict what Jesus had said about having “no honor in his own country.” We read, in verse 45,
45 When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, for they also had been there. (John 4:45 NIV)
The truth is that not everyone in the Galilee rejected Jesus, but many did. Among those who did follow Him and welcomed Him, there were many who did so because they saw Him as a miracle worker, not the long awaited Messiah. We also have to remember the first time that Jesus ministered in Nazareth, in the Galilee, the place where He grew up. In Luke 4 we read that Jesus entered the synagogue and began to read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He read from Isaiah 61,
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19 NIV)
At first they were amazed at Jesus, their eyes were riveted on Him, but by the time He finished speaking we read that they were ready to kill Him. Look at Luke 4:28-29 with me.
28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff. (Luke 4:28-29 NIV)
They didn’t want His teaching; they simply wanted to be entertained by His many miracles. Jesus was more like a rock star, a superstar, someone famous who entertains the crowd with their spectacular showing of athleticism or musical virtuosity. This wasn’t an isolated attitude that Jesus ran into during His ministry. If you will go back to John 2 with me I want to show you another example of how people were mesmerized by the miracles while not understanding the more important truth of Jesus the Messiah, the Savior of sinners. Read along with me from John 2:23-25.
23 Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, many people saw the signs he was performing and believed in his name. 24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. 25 He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person. (John 2:23-25 NIV)
Isn’t it interesting? The people of Jerusalem saw the signs Jesus was performing and they believed in His name. Seems pretty straightforward doesn’t it? Sounds like a good thing doesn’t it? Yet, Jesus’ assessment is something altogether different. John tells us, “He wouldn’t entrust himself to them, for he knew all people.”
The next example I want to show you is found in John 7 where Jesus’ brothers urged Him to take His show on the road. Read along with me beginning at John 7:2.
2 But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him. (John 7:2-5 NIV)
Jesus’ own family members recognized talent in Jesus and they wanted Him to go public, to make a big splash, to catch the attention of the masses, but it was for all of the wrong reasons. Jesus came to take His place on Calvary’s cross as the Savior of sinners. He didn’t come to leave His mark on history or to make a name for Himself because of the things He did. I hope this prepares all of us to take a look at the story of Jesus and the royal official. Take a look at our story with me.
Jesus arrived in Cana where, as John tells us, He had turned water into wine. (John 2:1-11) There, in Cana, He was met by a “certain royal official” who probably was serving in Herod Antipas administration in some capacity. The royal official had a son who was dying in Capernaum, a city about 20 miles away. Many of those in Galilee had been in Jerusalem at the Passover and they had seen what Jesus had done there. Somehow, some way, this royal official, or “nobleman” as the King James Version translates the Greek word, “?????????” (basilikos), which means, “of, or belonging to, a king.” This royal official was desperate. His son didn’t just have a fever, he was near death and he was willing to do anything, seek out anyone that might be able to help his son. He begged Jesus over and over again. He pleaded with Jesus to come with him to Capernaum and heal his son. We know that it wasn’t a calm, one time request because the word that is translated “begged,” is in the “imperfect tense” which means that he begged over and over again. And who of us wouldn’t do exactly the same thing?!
Jesus’ response doesn’t seem very empathetic, He doesn’t seem very compassionate, when He says, 48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” (John 4:48 NIV) Jesus wasn’t directing His comments specifically to the man because “you people” is plural, He was speaking to the whole crowd. Jesus’ words didn’t deter the man one bit. He said to Jesus, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” The word he used for “child” is a term of endearment, an intimate word, used for a young child, a little boy or little girl. Jesus said, “Go, your son will live.” Isn’t it interesting, the man had said, “Come…” but Jesus said, “Go…”
I think it is amazing that the man didn’t ask Jesus, “How can you heal my son from 20 miles away? Don’t you need to go and lay hands on him?” He doesn’t say, “Are you serious or are you just wanting me to stop begging you to do something?” John tells us, “The man took Jesus at his word and departed.” He took Jesus at His word.
John goes on to tell us that the next day while the man was heading back to Capernaum he was met by his servants with the good news—the boy had recovered! When he asked them what time things turned around for the boy they said, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.” What’s significant about 1 pm in the afternoon? The man realized that it was at that precise time that Jesus said, “Go, your son will live.” The man went home and told everyone in his family what happened while he was in Cana and every person in his house believed, they put their faith in Jesus. What a powerful story!
I want to spend the rest of our time this morning thinking about one phrase we read in John’s telling of this powerful story. It is the phrase, “The man took Jesus at His word…” Oh, if we would only be like the royal official and take Jesus at His word!
I want to take just a moment and contrast the sign seekers and those fascinated with miracles and wonders with those poor Gentiles in Samaria who were looked down upon by everyone as ignorant and outside of the reach of God’s grace. Think with me just for a moment about the Samaritans from Sychar. What miracle did Jesus do in their midst? What lame person was healed? Was there one like Lazarus that Jesus called from the tombs to impress the onlookers? Did Jesus still a storm while He was in Sychar? Did He feed the masses with a handful of fish and a couple of loaves of bread? You don’t read about one miracle that Jesus did while He was with the woman at the well and the citizens of Sychar except for changing the woman’s life and yet they came running for Jesus. The Samaritans took Jesus at His word…just like the royal official. Let’s read John 4:40-42 and I’ll show you what I mean.
40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers. 42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” (John 4:40-42 NIV)
They took Jesus at His word. They said, “We heard him and now we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” You and I have the Word of God with us, before us, and within us if we will but take the time to glean from its pages, taste and see that the Lord is good, and dine on the richest servings of truth and grace ever offered. Yet, why do we modern-day people continue to find more fascination in the remarkable and miraculous than we do in God’s Word?
Make no mistake about it, Jesus healed the sick, restored sight to the blind, raised Lazarus from the dead, cast out demons, and cleansed lepers, but why did He do these things? He didn’t do these things to fascinate the fanatics or to gain popularity among the people. In John’s Gospel, John describes for us seven or eight of the many miracles that Jesus did during His ministry. Yet, in John 20:30-31, he tells us why these miracles were preserved for you and me. Read along with me from John 20:30-31.
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31 NIV)
The miracles of Jesus confirm that Jesus is the Messiah. Plain and simple. Now, some of you are thinking, “I guess Mike doesn’t believe in miracles.” I believe that God can do whatever He chooses to do. God is sovereign. He is able. Able to do what? He is able to raise the dead, heal the sick, restore sight to the blind, break the strongholds of addiction, and much more, but I don’t “believe” in miracles…I believe in Jesus. I pray for the healing of the sick every week because they need the Master Physician. I pray for the lost every week because I know that the Good Shepherd still leaves the ninety-nine to go looking for the one. I pray for those who are emotionally tormented each week because I know that no one other than the Prince of Peace can restore us to our right minds. I pray for miracles every week, but I don’t “believe” in miracles…I believe in Jesus. When I say, “I don’t believe in miracles,” what I mean is that my faith is not built on God coming through for me when I, or someone I love, is in need of a miracle. My faith is not dependent upon the miraculous. I don’t need “signs and wonders” to know that my Savior loves me. I know that Jesus still works supernaturally, but my faith does not crater when visiting the hospital ends in a visit to the funeral home. I know that Jesus still works supernaturally, but my faith does not collapse when I’ve pleaded with God for reconcile in a marriage I’ve prayed for and they end up divorced. I know that Jesus still works supernaturally, but my faith does not so sour when I pray and I don’t get the answer I want.
Before Connie and I came to Oklahoma City we lived in Plano, Texas. In the ‘80s the largest churches in the Metroplex were “health, wealth, and prosperity” churches. Their basic teaching was that God wants you healthy, wealthy, and prosperous. Word spread across the area that signs and wonders were taking place at some of the churches and they exploded in growth. While I was in Plano I talked to a friend who had a family member that attended Word of Faith Family Church in Carrolton, Texas. The family member of my friend prayed the prayer of faith, but no miracle came. He called the church, set up an appointment to talk to one of the pastors on staff, and kept praying. When he went to see the pastor and explained that no miracle had taken place, the pastor told him that there must be sin in his life that was blocking God from delivering the miracle. I’ve got news for you, if the presence of sin prevents God from loving His people, answering our prayers, and working in our lives then not one single solitary soul on the face of the planet should expect God to do anything. We are sinners. There is sin present in my life and there is sin present in your life. We battle sin, we stumble on a regular basis, but God loves us and nothing in all of creation can separate us, those who are in Christ Jesus, from His love. If you don’t believe me then I want to challenge you to take Him at His word. In Romans 8:38-39 we read,
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 NIV)
Our fellowship with the Father is not based upon our good works, our sinless lives, or anything else that we have to offer God. We have been reconciled to God, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, our Savior who died so that we might have fellowship with the Father. In 1 John, we read,
1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2 NIV)
If we are in Christ we are no longer enslaved by our sin nature. In Christ we are more than conquerors through what Jesus has done for us and by the present ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives, but this doesn’t mean that we won’t sin. John says, “I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” My friends, we can take God at His Word.
I want us to be like the royal official who took Jesus at His word instead of like those who followed Jesus around waiting and hoping for a miracle. I’ve known people who have turned away from God because He didn’t do what they wanted Him to do, but I want you to know that I believe with all of my heart that if you will become intimately familiar with Jesus’ love and provision for you, His many promises given to you, then you will not be disappointed. Jesus is sufficient for you and for me. Jesus is sufficient for us for every phase of life, for every challenge of life, for every trial that we will ever go through. Jesus is sufficient—He is more than enough.
Let me close by saying this: you can get your miracle and it will provide temporary relief for you from your pain and sorrow, but God is more interested in you and me coming to know Him, to know that we’ve been forgiven because of His love for us demonstrated in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. God is more interested in our walking with Him in faith, trusting Him on the mountaintop as well as in the “valley of the shadow of death.” You can take Him at His word. The greatest need you and I have is Jesus; the greatest miracle that has ever taken place is not the raising of Lazarus from the tomb, but God raising those who are spiritually dead to a brand new life through what He has accomplished through Jesus for you and for me. Do you know Him? Has He breathed life into your lifeless body and soul through your union with Jesus? If not, then why not recognize that God is calling you this very morning to fall into His arms of grace and mercy so that you might live?
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
January 19, 2014