A 39-year-old woman in England, who was born deaf and is going blind because of Usher syndrome, is offered the option of having cochlear implants surgically placed in her ears. There are serious risks involved. She recounts her fears as she considers the alternatives. “I’m overwhelmed by fear. My mother is worried too. ‘You’re OK as you are, Joanne’, she says, ‘What if it goes wrong?’ But what if it doesn’t? What if there’s a chance that I’ll take out my hearing aids and never put them back in again?” (She wears hearing aids but they just provide a constant “white noise”, nothing more). But if her auditory nerve is damaged during surgery, she will hear nothing for the rest of her life. What’s she going to do? Is it worth the risk?
The man in the passage of Scripture we are studying is also faced with a decision. His son is about to die and there is nothing that the medical doctors can do to change that prognosis. He’s heard about the “Miracle-Worker” who changed water into wine at Cana in Galilee. He needs a miracle and this Man is his only hope. There may be serious consequences to him and his family if he pursues such a course of action. What’s he going to do? Let’s take a look at John’s Gospel, chapter 4, beginning at verse 45.
I. JESUS’ RECEPTION IN GALILEE (verse 45)
Jesus and His disciples were on their way to Cana in Galilee, having passed by Nazareth where Jesus commented to His disciples about that town. As they enter the region of Galilee, their reception is much different from the reception they had in Judea. Verse 45 says, “The Galileans received Him, having seen all the things He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves also went to the feast.” Jesus and His disciples were in friendly territory. Many of these Galileans were present when He performed His first miracle, and many others heard about it from those who were there.
II. THE NEED EXPRESSED (verses 46-47)
Verse 46 says, “He came therefore again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a certain royal official, whose son was sick at Capernaum.” We aren’t given the exact reason why they are making this trip. We do know from other passages of Scripture that one of His disciples, Nathaniel, comes from there, and Jesus and His mother have friends in Cana. There is also someone in Cana who has travelled a day’s journey to meet Him, and is anxious to talk to Him. This man is described as a “royal official” (nobleman, courtier). The Greek word is basilikos, which literally means ” of the king” or “belonging to a king”, He is probably a royal official appointed by King Herod in some capacity. We don’t know whether this man is a Jew or a Gentile, but we do know that he is desperate. He would not have come all the way from Capernaum to be seen in public talking to Jesus if he wasn’t desperate. What did he have to lose by doing such a thing? He might lose his reputation, his job, his friends, his family, and possibly even his life. But right now, what he might gain is more important than what he might lose. His son is dying and he is willing to do anything, and risk everything, in order to keep that from happening.
Verse 47 tells us how he responds to this critical need in his household. “When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him. and was requesting Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death.” He arrived at Cana and waited for the opportunity to speak to Jesus. When the opportunity was given him to speak, he pleaded for Jesus to come and heal his son. The nobleman could have sent his servants to make the request but preferred to lay aside his nobility and come humbly to Jesus. His faith has been called “crisis faith” because believing in Christ’s healing power was his only hope for saving his son who could die at any moment. You can imagine that a man wearing fine clothing that distinguished him as a high-ranking member of the Roman government, arriving in the little town of Cana, would attract the attention of everyone in the town. Then to see this nobleman approach Jesus and plead with Him to come and heal his son – this would cause people to come closer to watch what is going on, and to hear the conversation. The crowd may be thinking, “I wonder if Jesus is going to perform another miracle like He did at the wedding?” Some members of the crowd may want to “go along for the ride”, so to speak, to watch Jesus perform another miracle. It’s as if they are saying in their hearts, “Keep showing us miracles; we aren’t convinced yet!”
III. THE CROWD REBUKED; THE NEED REPEATED (verse 48-49)
The Lord Jesus, looking around at the crowd that has gathered around them, says in verse 48, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.” I don’t believe that Jesus is saying those words to the nobleman, but to the crowd and to the people in general. He was not performing His miracles for entertainment purposes. Jesus may have looked away from the nobleman and around at the crowd when He said those words, because the pronouns (“you . . . you”) in the Greek text are both plural. The nobleman also understands that those words weren’t directed toward him because he says in verse 49, “Sir, come down before my child dies”. We see no offense taken. He wasn’t concerned about the crowd, nor about his reputation. He just continues his conversation, repeating his plea; this time addressing Jesus as “Lord” (“kyrie” in the Greek text). He’s gaining a clearer understanding of Who Jesus is, and his persistence tells me that he is convinced that Jesus can and will heal his son. However, his understanding of Jesus’ healing abilities is limited. He thinks that Jesus can only heal someone by going there in person. As God, the Lord Jesus Christ is not limited by distance (or space).
IV. THE REPLY OBEYED (verse 50)
In verse 50 his faith is put to the test. “Jesus therefore said to him, ‘Go your way; your son lives.’ The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he started off.” After Jesus kindly spoke those words of assurance, the royal official’s “crisis faith” has now become “obedient faith” (“confident faith”). He’s taking Jesus at His word, and his faith in Jesus’ Person and His healing abilities has been tested and has increased as a result. He’s heading for home. I’m reminded of the centurion’s words to Jesus in Matthew 8:8, “Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word and my servant will be healed.”
V. THE RESULTS RECEIVED (verses 51-52)
As the royal official is walking those 20 miles back home, he has nothing but Jesus’ word to keep him going. Then, in verse 51, something unexpected happens. “And as he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living.” The child’s recovery was so sudden and unexplainable that his servants hurried to find him and let him know what had happened. Verse 51 says that “,,,.his servants met him, saying that his son was living.” Without knowing it, they were echoing Jesus’ words to him: “Your son lives”. Jesus was telling him that his son was immediately healed, and his servants were saying that his son was suddenly and completely healed. The royal official responds, in verse 52, with words you would expect to hear: “So he inquired of the hour when he began to get better”. He was expecting a gradual recovery. His servants replied, “yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.”. They were telling him that it was an immediate recovery for it happened at the seventh hour (one o’clock that afternoon). I think the servants were hurrying to find their master before he talked to Jesus in the hope of sparing him the risk of losing his reputation, job, or even his life as a result of being seen with Jesus. But their words confirmed that the Lord Jesus was the One who healed his son, removing all doubts that Jesus truly was the Messiah, the Son of God.
VI. THE REPONSE GIVEN (verses 53-54)
Verse 53 says, “And the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, ‘Your son lives’; and he himself believed, and his whole household.” I am convinced that the royal official “believed”, surrendering His life to Jesus Christ as his Lord, at the moment he was given the hour the fever left his son; and the man’s life changed immediately and dramatically. As he talked to his servants on the way home they could sense this change in his life because he spoke with joy and conviction about the Man who had healed his son. When he arrived home and held his son in his arms again, he shared with them, not only the details of his meeting with Jesus, but also the change in his own life when he believed. His “household” – family and servants, heard his testimony, witnessed the change in his life, and “believed”, making the same commitment to Jesus Christ that he made. It was now a Christian household. In verse 54, John records that this was the second miracle that Jesus performed, and both of them occurred in Cana of Galilee.
By believing in Jesus Christ, this household was accepting new risks, besides the ones the father took by going to Jesus. Is it worth the risks? Ask anyone who has truly made that decision, and whose life has changed because of the power and presence of Christ. You will see a smile come to that person’s face and a gleam in his or her eyes. You will also hear expressions of joy from the person’s lips. The results and rewards are infinitely greater than the risks.
As you review in your mind all the excuses and fears that have kept you from making that decision, also consider what Joann considered in my opening illustration. “What if it goes wrong?” “But what if it doesn’t?” What if it’s true? What if my life can be drastically changed and I can have a joy, peace, and purpose in my life that’s beyond comparison? Isn’t it worth the risks? Won’t the Lord Jesus be faithful to keep His promises if I put my life in His hands and trust in Him? He was faithful to keep His promise to the royal official. Why put off the joy that would begin today and last forever?
Joann decided to put her fears aside and have that surgery. The implants were now in place, and she had to wait a month for her ears to heal. Then the audiologist connected electrodes, made adjustments, put new hearing aids in place, and made more adjustments. When the adjustments were completed, the words: “caaaaaan , , , yooooooou , , , heeeeeear . . . meeeeeeee?” rang in her ears. “The first words I’ve ever heard . . . tears spill into my lap as I try to take it all in . . . “. (“Hearing For The First Time … at Age 39 “, by Jo Milne, (Readers’ Digest, 7/8/2015); from the book, “Breaking The Silence”). It was worth the risks!
There’s a whole new life and a whole new world that opens up to you when you repent of your sins and let the Lord Jesus Christ take control of your life. He took the greatest risks and paid the greatest price to provide you with this opportunity. His grace is sufficient to enable you to rejoice and give thanks in all circumstances that might result from your decision (Ephesians 5:20; I Thessalonians 5:16-18). As you consider again the two alternatives: a commitment to Jesus Christ, or not; remember that in this case, what you gain, you gain forever, and what you lose, you lose forever. Is it worth the risks of putting it off? Is it worth the risk of suffering the consequences both now and forever? I hope you will follow the example of the royal official and his household.
This work-in-progress is complete. There may still be some finishing touches. The next construction site will be John 5:1-9. If this is your first time at this website, I put my study of God’s Word on this site a section-at-a-time as I study it There are over a hundred completed sermons on this site and you are welcome to visit them all. May this be a joyful and productive day for you, whether it’s risky or risk-free.