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Healing of the Nobleman’s Son

I. OBSERVATION

A. Passage Selected: John 4:46-54

Some say this miracle is the same as the healing of the centurion’s son in the synoptics (#10) Luke 7:1-10 and Matt 8:5-13. But these are different for the following reasons:

Nobleman’s Son

Centurion’s Servant

Nobleman - royal connections - maybe Jewish or Roman.

Entrusted with 100 men

Son

Servant

Negative rebuke

Positive reinforcement

begging to come touch son

don’t come - just speak

No positive comment on faith

Commendation on faith contrasted with Israel

In Cana

Approaches the man at Capernaum

B. Progression Stated: Ideological

Progression of the faith of the man. Faith in the reputation and power of Christ, his faith in the promise of Christ (his word) and finally in the person of Christ.

C. Presentation Summarized:

1. Context: Second sign at Cana of Galilee

Important events have occurred between the first and second signs in Cana. He has done miracles in Jerusalem, had conversation with Nicodemus, talks to the woman at the well in Samaria, etc. He is well received by the Galileans in vs. 45 because they know about his miraculous powers. This sets us up for the nobleman’s arrival. We know why he thinks Jesus has power.

2. Content
a. Faith in the Power of Christ 4:46-48

(1) The request

The centurion has heard of Jesus’ miracles and believes He has the power to heal his son. So he searches him out.

(2) The rebuke

Jesus says, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will never believe.” The “you” is in the plural, so Jesus is probably talking to the crowd following Him instead of to the nobleman. The nobleman is not looking for a sign. He just wants his son healed.

Perhaps you are thinking, “I thought that the purpose of the book of John was that “these signs were written that you might believe...” (John 20:31) That is true, but the key word is “written.” It does not say that we should wait to see signs before we believe. The written record of select miracles should be enough to evoke faith.

Remembering the big picture of history in relation to miracles, if you need to see a miracle to believe, then that leaves you out of most of biblical history. God always worked providentially, but only occasionally did He work miraculously.

I think this passage is relevant to the Signs and Wonders debate. I think that to demand signs and wonders is a very dangerous thing. Jesus told Thomas, “Blessed are those who believe who have not seen...” Jesus says that an evil and adulterous generation demands signs and wonders. I have to reconcile those statements of Jesus with the modern day emphasis on the miraculous. If a Signs and Wonders advocate says that people need signs and wonders to believe, then we can say with assurance that that is not biblical.

Sometimes people get the impression that because we are not Signs and Wonders people we don’t believe in miracles nor think it would be good if God did a miracle. I have friends with cancer and other ailments, and I pray for their miraculous healing believing that God can do it. Because I don’t hype miracles doesn’t mean I don’t believe in miracles. Do I expect them? I know that the prayer of a righteous man effects much. And I know that sometimes we have not because we ask not, but I also know that miracles are not the norm for history.

The difference is that I am not demanding a miracle so that I will have faith or so others will believe. If I am, then I am putting people in a precarious position.

Jesus said, “Unless you see, you will not believe.” They could have believed without seeing. The proper belief is not in the miracle. It is in the person of Christ. It is not the act, it is the actor that they need to believe in.

So the condemnation is against people who think they or others need to see a miracle to believe in Jesus.

b. Faith at the Promise of Christ 4:49-50

(1) The persistence of the man

Even after Jesus gives the rebuke, the man still persists and makes his request. The word for son is paidia which means little boy.

(2) The promise to the man

Since the man persists, a demonstration of his faith, Jesus says, “Go, your son lives...” This fits into the Life and Eternal Life theme of John’s gospel. In the OT the term “live” is used of getting well (2Ki 8:9) and of rising from the dead (1Ki 17:23). John uses it with the first idea here. He will use “live” with the second idea later.

(3) The personal faith (?) of the man

“The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him, and he started off (John 4:50)” He takes Jesus at His word. This is an important statement in the context. He is not one of those who needs to see a miracle to believe. He believes Jesus’ word. The proof that the man believes is in his actions. He leaves and heads for home. He didn’t do like Gideon and ask for proof.

It is a whole day’s walk back home. While he was still on the way, the servants meet him going the other way. Why, because at the moment Jesus said, “Go home, your son lives...” the boy got well and the servants went in search of the father to tell him the good news.

Notice that in both of these first two miracles there is no “how to,” no formula, no lightning and thunder when the miracle occurs. Notice also that the telling of the actual miracle takes only a fraction of the space devoted to the events surrounding it. Therefore the miracle is not nearly as important as the situation and the response of the people. The law of proportion (in hermeneutics i.e. Bible study) teaches me that. What is emphasized today in the healing ministries and signs and wonders movement is the activity of the miracle. If you have a strong enough stomach to watch the religious stations while one of the healing shows is on, you will find that they spend 90% of their time with people up on stage being healed. There is little teaching going on, and what teaching occurs is focused on how God wants to heal you. Today, we have drum rolls, cymbals, etc. It is all a show.

Someone has said that leaders understand orders and when Jesus said, “Go.” The man went.

c. Faith in the Person of Christ 4:51-54

(1) The revelation of the miracle

The revelation of the miracle was by the servants on the way home. From the servants the father found that the miracle coincided with the time that the Lord spoke. The Greek word for “inquire” is only used here in the NT and it means to ask for the purpose of confirmation - he knew already that his son was well.

(2) The response to the miracle

The man and his whole household believed. Perhaps when he heard that the son got well at the same time that Jesus had said, “Your son lives,” there was a new realization of who Jesus was. He was the Messiah.

Acts 10:2, 11:14, 16:15, 16:31, 18:8 are passages where whole families believe.

These first two miracles show that John’s purpose for recording miracles is being fulfilled. People are believing in the person of Christ. There has been a movement from signs to the savior. They move from wonder to worship.

II. INTERPRETATION

  • This is the second sign that he performed. It is a sign of His Messiahship, demonstrating His deity. The purpose of the miracle in its context was to bring faith. Faith is the result of trusting the words of God for the effects of God. The man believed His word. There is a stress on faith and on life being given.
  • Why is this miracle significant in the context of John’s gospel? Does Jesus have to be physically present for people to believe his words and experience the effect? No. Why is that important? Because Jesus is going to go away. Is long distance a barrier to the Lord? No. I hope not if He’s going to be back in heaven.

    III. APPLICATIONS

  • Faith is indispensable in pleasing God. Heb 11:6.
  • Distance is no barrier to the power of God.
  • Sickness is no respecter of age or person. It strikes the young and the old, the rich and the poor. Just because you are faithful, spiritual, a pastor or even a missionary, doesn’t mean that your child won’t die in the field.
  • Affliction may bring blessing in disguise. What brought the contact with Jesus? Sickness What was the result? Salvation. God may use human tragedy to lead people to Himself as the only answer both for physical life and spiritual life.
  • Jesus is not just the creator of life - first miracle - He is the restorer of life - second miracle.
  • Faith in God’s word is preferred over faith in God’s wonders. God may not always do wonders. We’ve already discussed how the wonders have only occurred in special times in history, but His word is always around. Trusting in the word of Christ is the key. Throughout the ages, people have continually tried to stress the miracles and perform miracles thinking that people need to “SEE” the miracle in order to believe. But this man believed the Word of Jesus.
  • That is why Jesus is perturbed that this people will not believe unless they See. The opportunity to See miracles is so limited that few will have a chance to See and Believe. Most will have to just hear and believe.
  • When Jesus says it, it’s done.
  • Sometimes God works in the immaturity of our faith to bring us to more complete faith. Maybe it is not complete - saving faith. Another example is Cornelius who was a God-fearer. He had faith, but he didn’t have saving faith in the person of Jesus.
  • Related Topics: Miracles