Healing the Official’s Son – A Sign of Healing: When returning to Galilee, Jesus encounters a father experiencing a parent’s worst nightmare: a young son so sick he was near death. When Jesus comments about signs and wonders of faith, the man responds in faith and heads home to find his son miraculously healed. Go to Jesus for healing. Recorded on Sep 3, 2023, on John 4:43-54 by Pastor David Parks.
Finding Life in Jesus’ Name is a sermon series on the gospel according to John in the Bible. Have you ever felt unsatisfied with your life? Or, even when things were going well, something was still missing? Many people sense there must be something more. But what?? John, one of the closest friends of Jesus, believed that Jesus came into the world so that we may have life and have it to the full. Jesus turned John’s life upside down, and John claims this new life — marked by God’s power, presence, and purpose — is available for all who believe.
So all year, we’re going through the gospel according to John in a series called Finding Life in Jesus’ Name. And if you missed any of the messages so far, you can always go back and watch or listen online. But this morning, we’re at the end of John, chapter 4. For the last several weeks, we considered several one-on-one conversations between Jesus and individual people. Today, as we come back north into the region of Galilee, in the healing of the official’s son, the Apostle John gives us the second out of seven miraculous signs. Of course, Jesus did many more than seven signs in his ministry. All the gospels present the miracles of Jesus as something that seemed to happen constantly as they followed him. So the seven signs John records here are designed to be just a sample of the miraculous part of his ministry, but each sign has been chosen to teach us something unique about Jesus and the kingdom where he is the King — and today, we have a sign of healing. Now, I don’t get sick very often, but I’ve been really sick a few times in my life, and it’s a miserable thing. I won’t go through my medical history with you, but I do know what it’s like to lay in bed and not have the strength to even sit up and to long for energy/relief/health. I know what it’s like to pray desperate prayers that God would intervene/heal. But I also know that what I’ve experienced is nothing compared to the illness and affliction that some of you have experienced, either personally or with someone close to you. These experiences can be heartbreaking and are so costly. So, as followers of Jesus, how do we face this type of suffering? As a dad, the worst thing I could imagine is one of my kids becoming so sick that we had to start making funeral plans. Could the way of Jesus possibly prepare someone for something so heart-wrenching as that? If you have a Bible/app, please take it and open it to John 4:43. Let’s jump right in.
John 4:43-47 (NIV), “43 After the two days he left for Galilee. 44 (Now Jesus himself had pointed out that a prophet has no honor in his own country.) 45 When he arrived in Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him. They had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the Passover Festival, for they also had been there. 46 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. 47 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.” Ok, let’s pause here. So, our passage picks up right where we left off last week with Jesus’ conversation with the woman at the well in the region of Samaria. John tells us that after staying in Samaria for a few days and seeing an incredible harvest of faith from the most unlikely place, Jesus makes his way to Galilee. Looking at a map, we see that in John 3-4, Jesus travels from Jerusalem/Judea in the south, north through Shechem in Samaria, and then further north to the town of Cana. John reminds us that this was where Jesus had previously turned water into wine at a wedding feast. While in Cana, John says that a certain royal official came to Jesus. And this man was facing every parent’s worst nightmare: his son was sick and was close to death. We don’t know anything else about the situation, how old the boy was, or what exactly he was suffering from, but it’s deadly serious. The way the father describes his son in the next passage tells us that he was but a young child. Now, imagine you were this boy’s mom or dad, and you were praying as hard as you could that God would heal your son, and you were doing everything you knew how to do to help him heal…and then you heard that this Jesus of Nazareth, a powerful prophet who had performed other miracles was just a day or two’s journey down the road. Would you go? I’m sure it would’ve been a desperate decision. If I was the father, I’d be asking, “Do I leave my son and possibly miss his final days or hours and to try to convince this Jesus to help us? What if he refuses to come? Or what if I’m already too late?” But the father decides to try. He leaves his son and goes to Jesus to beg him to help. What do you think Jesus will do? How would he respond? Does Jesus have the power to heal?
John 4:48-50 (NIV), “48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders,” Jesus told him, “you will never believe.” 49 The royal official said, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed.” Now, this is such an interesting interaction. At first reading, Jesus seems annoyed, doesn’t he? I picture him rolling his eyes while saying this for some reason. (“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will never believe.” like, you stupid idiots!) At least that’s how I would’ve felt saying this if I were Jesus (fortunately, I am not!). But John doesn’t say Jesus was upset. This statement of Jesus about the Jews’ desire for signs and wonders before they would believe in the person/work/authority of Jesus could simply have been a true statement. After all, Jesus was just in Samaria, which we said last week was entirely the wrong place to respond to the ministry of the Jewish Messiah. For Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along. They had ethnic, political, and religious differences and about 700 years of bad blood between them. But there, in Samaria (of all places), and starting with the woman at the well (of all people), there was a great outpouring of faith in Jesus just as a result of his word. They didn’t need signs and wonders and yet many people believed in Jesus. But back in his own country, faith was harder to come by. The Jewish people, and especially the religious leaders, refused to believe in Jesus unless they saw signs from Jesus to authenticate his words. But then, they seemed to reject Jesus more often than not, even when he continuously performed miraculous signs before them. This is all part of what John said in the prologue: “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (Jn 1:11). And yet here, again, we have a desperate father who isn’t trying to put Jesus to some theological test or make him prove himself to him, but he’s out of options and is just looking for a miracle. “Sir [Lord], come down before my child dies.” I can imagine the father’s confusion about Jesus’ statement about signs and wonders. I can imagine him pushing through his confusion to just present his need to Jesus. Jesus, I don’t know about all that, but would you help me? Would you heal my young child before he’s gone?! Would Jesus lecture this man on the dynamics of faith in Israel? No. He sees that this man is a man of faith. And Jesus responds with healing. “Go,” Jesus replied, “your son will live.” But Jesus, how do I know he will live?? But here is where we see the true faith of the father. John says, “The man took Jesus at his word and departed.” This is exactly what faith looks like. Faith in Jesus means that you believe what Jesus says, you take him at his word, you believe that he will do what he says he will do, and you obey his word. The father believed that Jesus would somehow heal his son, just as he said, and that he could obey his word to go back home. So the man headed back to Capernaum from Cana. What do you think he would find when he got there? Had he been a fool to believe?
John 4:51-54 (NIV), “51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living. 52 When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him, “Yesterday, at one in the afternoon, the fever left him.” 53 Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” So he and his whole household believed. 54 This was the second sign Jesus performed after coming from Judea to Galilee.”” So, in desperation, a father goes to Jesus to beg for him to heal his young son. And when Jesus promises healing, the father responds to him in faith, believing Jesus and his promise for his son. In this story, we see that Jesus doesn’t need to be near/touching someone to heal them. He doesn’t need to recite certain magic words or apply a certain medication. Jesus proves that he is able to heal simply by an act of his will. There’s no way the father would’ve known at the time, but when he met and talked with his servants on the way home, he realized later that it was at the exact time of his conversation with Jesus that his son was healed. Now, there are some parallels here to the story of the woman at the well. There is a one-on-one encounter with Jesus and then the person — in the previous passage, it was the woman at the well; now here, it is the father — the person goes back home, and the result is that many other people believe in Jesus. Now, this is a normal dynamic of following Jesus even today: one person’s faith can lead to the faith of many others. One person is changed in some way by the good news or the power of Jesus, and they want others to experience the same thing. You don’t have to be Billy Graham to have an impact on the world for Jesus. All you need is a testimony and the courage to share it. So, with the testimony of our dear sister in Christ, many in Samaria believed in Jesus. And so, with the testimony of the father and the healing of the son, their whole household put their faith and trust in Jesus. So, this story is similar to other interactions with Jesus. In fact, there are other stories of healing in the gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus. So why does John share this particular story with us? And the answer is rooted in his reason for writing: that we would find life in the name of Jesus. Well, how do we do this in the face of the many illnesses and afflictions that we, or those we love, might suffer in this broken world? How can we find the life that God wants for us, his children, when we are still in need of healing? I’ll close today with two lessons from this passage and a third point of pastoral advice. First, we must go to Jesus for healing; second, we’ll see how we can trust Jesus for healing; and third, what to do if healing doesn’t come.
Go to Jesus for healing. Now, clearly, the father knew his son needed healing; there was no denying his need. Compared to some of the other needs that people have in a broken world, typically, the need for healing isn’t hard to see. But this isn’t always true. There are some addictions and various mental health disorders that can be very difficult for people to see and accept that they need help/healing. But most of the time, if you’re sick, you know it. But even during the time of Jesus, I’m sure there were parents with sick kids who hesitated or even refused, to bring their need for healing to Jesus. One lesson from this passage is that we can go to Jesus in our time of need. And not just for spiritual matters/healing but also for mental/emotional/physical healing. Jesus doesn’t rebuke this man for bothering him. He is willing and able to heal his son. And this serves as an invitation to us today. If you need healing, you can go to Jesus for healing. No matter where you are in the world, you can pray to him and ask for healing, and he will hear you. You will not be rebuked for bothering him. Cast all your anxieties on him. Why? Because he cares for you. James, the brother of Jesus, writes, “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.” Therefore, every time our elder board meets, we spend time praying for you and especially for healing for those who are ill. If you are too sick to come, we will go to you and pray with you. All you have to do is let us know you’d like us to come and pray. Now, we modern people are so influenced by a naturalistic/materialistic view of the world (that the physical world is all there is) that we might feel it’s antiquated to pray to God for healing. But if God created the world and everything in it, then the context for all of creation is a miracle. Would it be that great a difficulty for our Creator to do a much smaller miracle of healing? I don’t think so. But whether Jesus decides to heal through the normal means he has given us in creation, including seeking the medical care of doctors/nurses and medication and surgery and so forth, or whether Jesus decides to heal through a more direct means, as he did in that day, we can pray for healing and seek healing and thank God when healing comes, whatever the means of healing are used. Just as the father did in this story, we can go to Jesus for healing.
How can we trust Jesus for healing? The father heard the promise of Jesus that his son would live. And he believed him, he trusted him, he took him at his word. Now, this is the main theme of John’s gospel that we can find real and eternal life only by faith in Jesus’ name. But how can we live like this? How can we be people of faith and trust Jesus for healing? It can be so heart-wrenching to watch a loved one suffer. Watching someone endure pain and hardship can test our faith in God and sometimes it feels like it will be stretched to the breaking point. Well, first, it’s stories like this one that show that Jesus has the power to heal. To say the obvious, this is something that only God could do, which is why John includes it as one of the seven signs that reveal the glory of Jesus. But there are so many stories of healing in the Bible. We can trust Jesus for healing because we see/hear again and again his heart for his people so that we might have life and have it to the full. He did it then, and he can do it again. And that should be enough to trust him, but even after the power and faithfulness of God that we see in the Scriptures, we can also listen to stories of healing of other Christians today. In our last membership class, we heard the testimonies of two different people who were miraculously healed by God. These testimonies help us trust Jesus for healing. Ultimately, we can trust Jesus for healing because in his resurrection from the dead, Jesus demonstrated that he has power over even death.
What do we do if healing doesn’t come? Third and finally, I’d like to close with some pastoral advice. What do we do if healing doesn’t come? What do we do if we pray and pray and pray, and nothing seems to happen? I’ve walked with several of you through times such as these. Where we prayed for weeks or months for healing, for freedom from addiction, for deliverance from bondage, but in the end, the answer from God seemed to be, “No.” Well, for the Christian, the answer to a prayer for healing is never finally, “No,” but rather, “Not yet.” For after the death on the cross, for the sins of the world, and his resurrection from the dead, our Lord promised one day to return. And when he returns, the dead will be raised, and all will give an account to the Lord for our lives. The ones without faith will be forever separated from the life and light and love of God. But the ones of faith, those who trust in him today, will be made new and will live in a world where there will be no more mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. The answer if healing doesn’t come is the same as if it does: put your faith and trust in Jesus, and he bring healing in his time according to his glory and his power. May we respond to him in thanks and in praise forever and ever. Let us pray.