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.


5 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.

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