John 4:46-54 – A Progression of Belief

A healthy dose of skepticism is a good thing as we read about the latest buzz. False and misleading assertions are commonplace – the end supposedly justifying the means. Deceptive and enticing advertising constantly drips before our eyes. And yet one thing John’s Gospel challenges us to do is believe.

One day, as Jesus was returning to Cana, a royal official pleaded for his son. “Therefore He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and was imploring Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.” The royal official said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son lives.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off. As he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living. So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” So 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. This is again a second sign that Jesus performed when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.” (John 4:46–54, NASB95)

We don’t know who the royal official was or which court he served. The most common thought is he was a representative of Herod Antipas, whom Jesus called a fox (Luke 13:31). Perhaps the official was a Gentile or a worldly-wise non-practicing Jew. Either way, he heard about Jesus, and when his son lay dying, he sought out Jesus.

Jesus’ initial response seems harsh and totally without compassion. Perhaps the official only had faint hope and saw Jesus as a last-ditch effort. We don’t know, but it seems that Jesus wanted a more profound belief than the father started with.

Instead of going with the father asked Jesus simply said, “Go; your son lives.” Nothing seemingly had changed. There was no proof, no assurance, nothing to confirm, but the father believed Jesus’ words and began the long walk home. Hours later, perhaps after an overnight stop, servants caught up with the dad and confirmed that at the very hour Jesus spoke, the boy was healed. We can only wonder what was going through the father’s mind before then. Did he doubt? Even just a little bit? We don’t know.

For me, the important part is the progression of belief we see in the father. He begins with desperate hope but not really true belief. He then grabs on to Jesus’ words and literally walks them out until they are confirmed. Then we are told that his belief in Jesus flourished and changed the entire household.

We must always grow in belief, trust, and faith. At first, we are often like the father. Praying, “Jesus come and do what I want you to do.” But Jesus didn’t accept that. He instead challenged the dad to believe what He says and do something about it. To believe that Jesus does have compassionate willingness. Does that mean we’ll always get what we want? No, it means that we trust Jesus with our needs and, ultimately, with our entire life and being.

Christ-followers are continually challenged to grow in belief, faith, and trust. That growth often happens as we turn over our wants for His will. Not in a fatalistic “whatever will be, will be,” but in full trust that if we ask for bread, Jesus will not give us a stone. Yet, God’s answers are often different than our expectations or our request. As a song puts it, “sometimes He calms the storm; sometimes He calms His child.” The most significant test of faith is this – if Jesus never answers another prayer, will I still believe? Will I still love Him and walk in faith?

Dale Heinold
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