John 4:46-54 – The Second Sign

After spending a short time in Samaria, Jesus returns to Galilee where he was welcomed by the Galileans (4:45). The journey from Sychar to Cana is about 40 miles, about three or four days journey.  We do not know how long Jesus remained in Jerusalem, but this is likely about a week after the encounter with the Samaritan woman. An official from Herod Antipas’ government approaches Jesus in Cana and asks Jesus to heal his son, who is near death in Capernaum.

jesus healing the centurionThe Galileans had attended the Passover feast witnesses his sign at the temple and perhaps other miracles.  “All that he had done at the feast” seems to imply more activity than just the Temple action, but it is Jesus’s words and actions in the Temple which likely attracted their attention.  Galilee has a reputation for rebellion against Rome, in A. D. 6 Judas the Galilean led a movement which refused to pay taxes to Rome.  There was a great deal of animosity between the ultra-poor of Galilee and Rome, represented by the Herodian dynasty.

John was very selective in Gospel. When he chooses to tell us about a miracle or sign, it is for a theological reason. In this case, the faith demonstrated by the official in this sign stands in contrast to the crowd of Galileans who welcomed Jesus – they welcomed him but only because he had done miracles and stirred up the Temple aristocracy.  The Greek verb  δέχομαι (“welcome”) has the sense of being open to another person or idea, perhaps even approving of that idea. For example in Matthew 11:14, Jesus says that if one was willing to accept the idea, John the Baptist was in fact Elijah. We even use the word this way in American English, we can be “open” to ideas in the same way we open our home and offer hospitality.

John knows that later Jesus will be rejected his hometown of Nazareth and in Galilee in general.  Usually it is thought that the main reason is this crowd was interested in Jesus is his miracles.  But perhaps the Galileans witnessed his Temple action and were interested in him as someone who stirs up trouble in Jerusalem. (Galilee was the 99% in the first century!)   The Herod Antipas was not a popular king, The crowd of Galileans may very well have thought that Jesus would continue his protest against wealth and power by pronouncing judgment on this Herodian official who came to beg a healing for his son. The “shock” of the story is that Jesus heals the sick child, but does so in a way that the Galileans do not witness it, despite their preoccupation with seeing a messianic sign.

The point of the signs in John’s gospel is to support the theme for the whole book, Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. He has demonstrated that He is the Messiah in a private sign at a wedding and a public sign at the temple. Now He has healed a person in a way which highlights His power – He was not even present for the child to be healed. The story of the gentile’s belief stands in contrast to 5:31-47, the unbelief of the Jews after a similarly spectacular healing. A clue to the point of the miracle is the three-fold repetition of the phrase, “your son lives” (vv. 50, 51, 53). This is balanced by a three-fold repetition of the developing official’s faith (vv. 48, 50, 53). Beasley-Murray compares this to the theological statements in (5:21, 25-26, 28-29), which are also three-fold. In 5:21 Jesus says that the Son can give life to whomever He wants, including the son of this official.

The official who comes to Jesus moves from pragmatic belief in Jesus to a real faith which effects his whole family as a result of this miracle. This stands in contrast to the Galileans who are interested in a sign, but eventually shift to unbelief and eventually antagonism toward Jesus.


13 thoughts on “John 4:46-54 – The Second Sign

  1. The first thing that really stands out to me in reading this is the fact that I had never thought about the fact that there were probably other actions that Jesus did during this time that brought attention, but this is the most memorable. Transitioning to the concept of opening one’s heart, we see here in this story that there are different reasons that people open their hearts to Jesus. Some do it just because they know or have seen His signs, and other do it because of true understanding. The Galileans just wanted Jesus because of what He could do for them; and we get this idea from the fact that Jesus is rejected by His home town of Nazareth in Galilee. These were the people that were looking for the signs of the coming Messiah but missed the fact that He was right under their nose. What I found to be very interesting about this incident is the fact that not everyone who was there that day would have known what was going on. In my head I had always thought of Jesus turning the whole Temple into upheaval, but as we looked into this incident more in class, this was more than likely not the case. Protests of this sort would have been common, and people very well could have just picked up and moved on after Jesus did this. My question then is, how did this a sign? Jesus tells them that they have defiled His Father’s house; but if this was something that happened, and it was not something big enough for the whole Temple to know about it, what makes this different from others whole have protested? Obviously, we are told of this incident for a reason, so it is important. I now just feel that I have more questions than understanding of this story now.

  2. It didn’t really occur to me that Jesus’ temple would remind people of rebelling against Rome, to me it always seemed that Jesus was rebelling against the Jews. But taking that into account, it would make sense why they later rejected him when they realized that Jesus was not there to lead any form of rebellion. With the gentile official looking for his child to be healed it the crowd I can only imagine the crowds reaction when Jesus expresses his interest in the official, because of his faith. I can’t imagine the crowds reaction was positive to that. Yet in the end the official and his family earns Jesus’ respect. From mt reading of the passage I just saw the level of faith increase as John further displays Jesus as the Messiah.

  3. G.K Chesterton once wrote that: “The things we see everyday are things are the things we never see at all”. Perhaps the Jews, considering that God has chosen them to be His people and has abided with them for many centuries, when He suddenly appears on the earth in human form, do no recognize Him because they have grown complacent. This is a temptation for many Christians today, particularly in West Michigan, because the person of Jesus is readily discussed without any negativity or criticism. One would perhaps assume that those who have had the most interaction with God would, when He is incarnated on our earth, ascertain His divinity and receive Him well. But the exact opposite is true, as this passage in John demonstrates. The Roman crowd demanded a sign of Jesus, which I suppose is not intrinsically evil. That is something to consider. John does not represent the crowd as evil or necessarily opposed to Jesus; they simply want Him to be something that He is not. In other words, the crowd wishes Jesus to be some kind of revolutionary who is not afraid to rebel against the authorities. The official in this passage desired Jesus to be a healer. However, the point John is trying to communicate is that He is not merely a miracle worker or healer –He is God. Anyway, even when Jesus does do what the crowd asks, they are not satisfied. Kostenberger, in his reflection on this passage, states that signs by themselves do not have the potential to convert someone. That is the work of the Holy Spirit. Let us not become complacent in our walk with Christ, but continually seek to know Him more fully.

  4. I truly love this story. I think that it really shows how cool Jesus is, it shows that Jesus does not need people to believe that He can do a miracle for Him to do a miracle, or need the person to be presently there with him, but rather Jesus just needs to make it happen, and in this case he just makes it happen by verbalizing that the man’s son will be fine, and he is fine. I would say that a major reason that this story is in the Bible is that we should not have to see God’s mighty work in order for us to believe in God. When Jesus says, “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe”. On one hand I can feel Jesus getting a little sarcastic with this man a little bit, however, I don’t know if being sarcastic here is his point. I think that Jesus clearly realizes that these people will not see that Jesus is the true son of God, because it was prophesied in the old testament that Jesus would do many signs and miracles, so these people would know Jesus by His actions. And they did. When Jesus did this miracle everyone in this man’s household believed. I think that there is a point to make here, that when the man of the house in that time this took place, everyone in the house would have believed what the man of the house would have believed.

  5. Today, we see how the Christian Americans use their Christianity to gain, to gain power just like the Galileans did. They thought that Jesus came to defeat the Romans, but because Jesus healed the gentiles child, they saw that Jesus was not their to fight for power, but to love one another.
    I like how Jesus pointed out to the people that if they do not see a sign, they will not believe. What if He called this out in us? Have we ever felt pressured by others to prove that God is real and that He truly does heal? That He truly is who he says He is? Jesus did not give them a sign that they could see, but wanted them to believe BY FAITH. Let us also live by faith and encourage others to do so.
    I love the simplicity of what Jesus said to the Galilean. He just said, Go, your son will live.
    Jesus did not use big words, but just spoke the truth of the work that His father will do.
    Lastly, I think that it is important that John included that the father realized that when he got home that his son was healed at the moment when Jesus spoke to him to go and your son will live.
    John was trying to communicate that Jesus’ word hold power no matter how far away and when he speaks a command, it will be done.

  6. This story is one that I have not heard a lot about. I do not think I have ever heard a sermon on it once in church. Despite that, it is a very interesting story. There are a few things that I have interpreted about this passage. The first thing is, this man man begged Jesus for a miracle, and He said, “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe” (John 4:48, NIV). Just like people today, the man begged Jesus for a sign or wonder that His son would be born. Jesus, even though he said they would never believe without a sign, healed this man’s son. He just did it in a way that would be more meaningful to the man and more private in the Jewish community. The second thing I can gather from this is the fact that the man trusted Jesus and put his faith in him. After the son was risen from the dead, the man’s entire family believed. We need to believe that Jesus will take care of us, even though we do not see the signs. We need to have faith when we cannot see.

  7. What’s really cool about the second sign is that Jesus healed from a distance, The Royal Official actually traveled eight hours to find Jesus to ask him to heal His son. This is really cool to me because it just shows how much faith this man had in Jesus that he would leave his dying son in beliefs that Jesus could heal. What I love also love about this story is that it shows Jesus’s power, Jesus didn’t go to Capernaum to heal the official’s son he did it from where he was, 20 miles away. Jesus said to the royal official “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders, you will never believe.” By Jesus asking this question, I think t goes to show that people didn’t believe that Jesus could do miracles until he actually did them. In this story, the royal official kept believing that Jesus could heal and Jesus saw that and healed his son. However, Jesus didn’t need people to believe in Him to be able to perform these miracles he just did. I think it’s interesting that you said that “The point of the signs in John’s gospel is to support the theme for the whole book, Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God.” This is something that I didn’t realize but it’s so clear now that that’s the reason for the signs. Throughout John, the purpose has been to try and convince diaspora Jews that Jesus is the Son of God, what better way to do that than by highlighting Jesus’s signs.

  8. The miracle of the healing of the official’s son is a really interesting story in the book of John. The fact that Jesus wasn’t present with the boy who was dying but was with the boy’s father in a different city makes the miracle even more amazing. It just shows the power that Jesus had when He was on earth. And He is still just as powerful today. In today’s society we don’t see Jesus walking down the street or have a chance to ask Him personally to heal our sick, hurting, and dying but we can pray and listen to His word. When we pray we are living our worldly human lives on the earth while Jesus is living in Heaven as the Son of God, He hears us and answers our prayers. Sometimes He says “no.” But we are in communication with each other and can ask others to pray for us or anyone we know that may need help. We talk to Jesus through prayer and He responds to us even when we don’t think He has. Jesus may not be on the earth anymore bringing people back from the dead but He still answers our prayers when we talk to Him about our needs. Something important to remember is we shouldn’t only pray to God when we want something or when someone is sick but we should pray all the time. Prayer is our communication with God.

  9. The second sign Jesus performed the healing of an official’s son. This story is very interesting to read. The passage makes it similar and clear what happens. Verse 48 is what shocked me when Jesus says unless you people see signs and wonders you will never believe. I can see this apply to today. Everything comes with a price. If it sounds too good to be true then most likely then it isn’t. Throughout this healing, we can rest in knowing that God can heal if it is his will. In this case, I think it is important that Jesus was physically with the son. Jesus was far. It’s also important to see that the father and his household didn’t believe until after the son was healed.

  10. I found it interesting to realize that when John wrote about a miracle/sign, it was for a theological reason. Thinking about the healing of the official’s son, I am realizing the connected meaning between the two. Jesus healed not only to prove who he was, but to also say “Hey, yes I am the Messiah, but get this: YOU have the chance at a relationship with God the Father, just like me”. He performed miraculous signs and wonders like this healing not only to bring peace, hope, and restoration, but to proclaim His Name and even more, the name of His Father. I appreciate how this post brought to my attention that this same idea is what John had in his writing! His purpose was to show readers that Jesus is the Messiah and He has come to save, but one of the ways he did so was by performing miracles and signs.

  11. It never occurred to me that the royal official could have already displayed a level of faith in Jesus by leaving his dying son behind and traveling so great a distance to see a prophet who was rumored to have the ability to heal. I wonder though, was Jesus the reason that official happened to be in Cana? Was his presence in that town required for some official duty that happened to coincide with Jesus’ ministry circuit? Was he seeking some other medical solution and bumped into the legendary healer/teacher? The text doesn’t say. It implies that Jesus was the primary reason, but I don’t think that He was the only cause for his journey (as I will explain). However, I don’t think this detracts from the impact of either Christ’s miracle or the faith of the official.
    The fact that the official’s servants met him while he was still on his way back about a day later tells me that he probably didn’t immediately rush home. If that was the case, he probably would have made it back by that evening to see that the miracle had taken place. Capernaum is about 16.5 miles from Cana, and if we calculate average walking speed plus a generous two hours for food and delays (roughly 8 hours total, which matches your calculation, Emily), he would have made it back by about 9:00 PM. Being an official, I doubt that he would have walked, but even so my point is that he seems to have delayed his return significantly more than he needed to.
    This is even more impressive. It means that Jesus told the official that his son would live, and the official said “okay” and carried on with his business for the rest of the day, stayed the night, and didn’t return to his potentially dying son until the following day! He remained in the town displaying his sign-less faith to the sign-seeking Galileans who despised him. A shockingly sharp contrast to the response of the Galileans, indeed!

  12. Attitude can sometimes make a world of difference. The crowd here demands from Jesus a sign, but the royal official pleas. While, this not likely why Jesus choose to work the way he does here, as there is also the fulfillment of a prophecy involved, it does demonstrate where our two parties are coming from. The royal official, who likely could have sent a servant chooses to come in person and please his case before Jesus, while the crowd simply demands Jesus performs a sign like he is some sort of trick pony. One party demands a sign as proof of Jesus’ ability, while the other already believes he is able, but seeks to see if he is willing. The heart attitudes of all parties are plain to see in this short story, and it can teach us a great deal. We can see who Jesus responds too and who he does not, but also how Jesus was treated and how people thought of him. I may be incorrect, but I believe as this is the second sign in John that this is also the first healing in this Gospel. If this is the case then the royal official may have even greater faith than we give him credit for, as he may be asking Jesus for healing when Jesus in this Gospel has yet to heal anyone at all!

  13. What I gather from reading this was that Jesus returned to Galilee where he was welcomed back. They attended a passover feast and more activity in the temple. The attention in the temple would gather some attention and Galilee would rebel against Rome. In John’s Gospel he is very picky about what he chooses to talk about when it come to the miracles. While John knew that Jesus would be rejected later on, the crowd at the time was still interested in in Jesus miracles. While actions at the temple stirred up some people the Galilee people were still expecting to hear Jesus go against the judgement and to heal the sick. Jesus was very calm and collected when the crowd demanded the he preform miracles but Jesus knew when he wanted and where he wanted to preform these signs. This is really looking at the attitudes of the people in the town and how they are reacting to Jesus and the intentions. Where they there to follow or were they their to see what they wanted to see and demand what they wanted from Jesus. As Jesus responded to the crowds demands he was calm and knew when to do the miracles. A thing that we need to remember is to trust in God and pray. Prayer is the most intimate way to communicate with Jesus and if we choose to live our lives this way those miracles that the people wanted Jesus to perform would be heard by Jesus.

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