Scripture: John 4:43-54
The scenarios of Jesus’ ministry will continually change as we follow Him through the Gospels. In the latter part of John 4, He returns to Cana, the site where He turned water into wine in John 2 as his first miracle in His public ministry. As John 4 begins with Him leaving Judea to go to Galilee through Samaria, He stayed in Sychar for two days as it tells us in v. 43. The following verse says, “For Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country.” It seems a bit strange to insert this statement into the text, but it may be going back to v. 40 where it says that the Samaritans “urged Him to stay with them.” He was warmly welcomed and honored by people who were not of his own country when He was with the Samaritans; this would change when He got back among the Jews with both moments of belief and progressively more intense opposition from religious leaders on the way to the cross.
John 4:45, “So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they also had gone to the feast,” is linked back to John 2:23, “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did.” John 2 would go on to say that Jesus would not commit Himself to the people, knowing what was in their hearts. It would make sense that Galileans would have seen Him at the feast of Passover and now were back in their local areas: Jews often made it a priority, including Jesus, to be in Jerusalem for Passover. In fact, we will see this at the beginning of John 5. Jerusalem offered quite the hub for Jesus and His disciples later in the book of Acts for the spread of the gospel to people who were there momentarily.
The second sign of Cana is the focal point of this segment of text. “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.” The term “nobleman” comes from the Greek basilikos; it is associated to the word “kingdom”, which is basilea. Most people would be familiar with the cognate term basilica, a term heard more commonly today for some noteworthy Catholic cathedrals (like St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican). Needless to say, the man in Cana was royalty of some sort. Note that his son was not dead, but at the point of death; this is different than Lazarus, who was confirmed dead for four days. That is significant because it would be easier to be dismissed by those who disbelieved if a child near death became well again rather than a man dead for four days was raised back to life. Additionally, Jesus healed the boy from afar by His words, but in Lazarus’ case, He let him die and called him forth from the dead in person.
“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.’ The nobleman said to Him, ‘Sir, come down before my child dies!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go your way; your son lives.’ So the man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he went his way.” Jesus didn’t accidentally lay down the condition of belief; it’s interesting that this man will believe Jesus upon hearing His word without seeing signs and wonders. There is some parallel in how Jesus interacted with the nobleman and how He took care of the situation with (Matthew 15:22-28) and Mark 7:25-30. The Gospel of Mark records these words:
“For a woman whose young daughter had an unclean spirit heard about Him, and she came and fell at His feet. The woman was a Greek, a Syro-Phoenician by birth, and she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. But Jesus said to her, ‘Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.’ And she answered and said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs.’ Then He said to her, ‘For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.’ And when she had come to her house, she found the demon gone out, and her daughter lying on the bed.” (Mark. 7:25-30)
Belief happens in both passages on the heels of Christ’s words, and in both passages the parent goes to find the child well, healed in connection to Jesus’ pronouncement. In the nobleman’s case, he himself believed, and his whole household. When did He believe? It says He believed Jesus in v. 50, but then later it says he believed in v. 53. It’s really a continuation of belief, quite similar to us today in that God grows belief in us through various circumstances that elicit belief. Verse 50 says he believed Jesus’ words, and v. 50 just says that He believed, implying that He (and his household) believed in Christ. He believed what Jesus proclaimed and He believed in Jesus Himself for what he had both heard and seen as a result.
It’s hard to reduce the issue of belief in the Gospel of John down to an act of choice; what these people who believed consistently did was a response of compulsion within to a realization they had made in the core of who they were. Belief was never a matter of twisting arms in Jesus’ ministry; people heard Him or saw Him do signs and couldn’t help but believe when God drew them to Him. The Pharisees saw these miracles at times, too, but their response was only to deny the power by which He did it; certainly they did not believe.
The supernatural act of spiritual regeneration is an eye-opening, heart-softening, mindset-altering phenomenon working in correlation to the truth in its presentation. In reading through this passage, remember John 6:44: “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” Without the work of God in the heart, even a miraculous event or the presence of Jesus Christ in the flesh would not be enough to cause a person to believe. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, it’s Abraham who says in Luke 16:31, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.” Belief is always dependent upon God’s predestination and the Holy Spirit’s conviction and regeneration in the visible tip of the iceberg that we call belief. No one sees unless God opens their eyes; no one hears unless He enables them to do so. The roots run deep into the work of God in the salvation and sanctification of every believer.
Look upon us, O Lord,
and let all the darkness of our souls
vanish before the beams of thy brightness.
Fill us with holy love,
and open to us the treasures of thy wisdom.
All our desire is known unto thee,
therefore perfect what thou hast begun,
and what thy Spirit has awakened us to ask in prayer.
We seek thy face,
turn thy face unto us and show us thy glory.
Then shall our longing be satisfied,
and our peace shall be perfect.
A Prayer of Augustine (354-430 A.D.) from “The Book of Common Worship.” Van Dyke, Henry. The Book of Common Worship. United States, Presbyterian board of publication and Sabbath-school work, 1906.