John 4:46-54 (NIV): Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. “Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed. While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour.” Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and all his household believed. This was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed, having come from Judea to Galilee.
Jesus’ words to this distraught father seem harsh to modern ears. Here is a man pleading for the life of his desperately ill son, a son who may, in fact, be dying. And Jesus chastises him as needing to see a miracle before he will really believe in Him.
But the context of Jesus’ statement is important. First of all, Jesus was in Galilee, where the people actually were flocking around Him, not because they sincerely believed that He was the Messiah, but because they knew that He could do miracles, and hoped to see one or receive one. (John 4:45).
Secondly, Jesus knew what was in a person (John 2:25). Even though this man had come to Jesus, he had not come because of who Jesus was, but simply because of what He could reportedly do.
All of that being said, Jesus’ compassion for the man moved Him to act, regardless of the man’s motive. He didn’t go with the man clear back to Capernaum. He didn’t have to. He merely spoke the word and the miracle was accomplished. Taking Jesus at His word, the man headed for home.
It was nearly 20 hilly miles back to Capernaum, and the man didn’t get back until the next day. Before he reached town, he was met by his servants coming after him, bearing the good news that the boy had instantly recovered the day before, at the exact time that Jesus had said that the man could go, that his son would live. It was only then that the man, along with his whole household started to really believe in Jesus.
Father, it is easy to be critical of this man for not really believing in Jesus until after He had done this mighty miracle, but simply coming because He had a need, something He wanted from Him. But how many of us do the same thing? All too often we come to You with our prayer lists, but at the same time we fret and stew about the things that are going on in the world, not really believing that You are the great God Almighty who can actually fix the things that we are fretting about. We end up ourselves being people who don’t really believe unless we “see signs and wonders.” Help us, Lord, to seek You first for who You are, to believe in what You have said, so that we can then seek You for what we need (cf. Matthew 6:33). Amen.