I have this habit of sitting long in a passage I don’t understand on the first read. I’ll pour over the words multiple times in a sitting, I’ll think about them throughout my day, and I’ll revisit them the next time I sit down to read because something inside of me is certain there’s a hidden treasure there, and if I dig deep enough I’ll find it.
That’s how I feel about today’s passage.
Miracles to Grow Your Faith
On the surface, Jesus’ encounter with the official seems like your run-of-the-mill miracle. A man comes to Jesus for help, Jesus does something crazy miraculous, and everyone moves on with their lives, changed by the encounter. But Jesus never seems to do miracles just for the sake of doing miracles. There is always a purpose behind them, whether it’s a sign of blessing, a form of healing, or physical proof of His divinity.
Or, as is the case with today’s passage, to grow someone’s faith.
When the official approaches Jesus, he is desperate for Jesus to come with him and heal his dying son. This man, though we don’t know his name, we do know where he lives; Capernaum. It’s the same town where Jesus performed His first miracle, where He changed water into wine at a wedding. The servants and His disciples were the only ones to witness the amazing transformation, but news about what He had done quickly spread around town. So when the official hears that Jesus is back in town, Scripture tells us that he went to Jesus and “pleaded with him to come down and heal his son” (verse 47, CSB).
Jesus responds in what feels like a surprising way. Addressing the man He says, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe” (verse 48).
Jesus’ statement almost feels like a reprimand. In the same way, He will later correct His disciples with the heartbreaking words, “Oh you of little faith.” I wonder, though, if Jesus isn’t reprimanding here, but stating a fact. The man needs a miracle. His son is dying.
But also, the man needs a miracle for the sake of his faith.
Jesus Desires We Believe
This man comes with a desire for his son to be well again, but Jesus answers with His own desire: that the man would believe. This man asks Jesus to go home with him to stand beside the bed where his son lies dying, but Jesus tells the man to go home without Him, and that his son would live.
Jesus had proven to the community what He can do in their presence and the man was leaning into that. He is leaning into the faith of what he has seen Jesus do before. When Jesus shows up somewhere, miracles happen. But in this instance, Jesus is providing an opportunity for the man’s faith to grow. Will he trust Jesus’ ability to heal even if Jesus isn’t physically present?
I imagine the man waited there for a moment, eyes locked with Jesus, wondering if there was something more He would say. In that moment the man had a decision to make—stick with what felt comfortable and maybe urge Jesus again to come with him, or go on faith and return home believing what Jesus had said.
The official chose the second option. He left Jesus where He was standing and went home. Along the way, a servant of his came running to meet him to tell him the news. His son would live! Floored, the official asked exactly what time his son started improving and learned that it was the same exact time Jesus spoke the words that his son would live.
The man went to Jesus expecting Him to come through in one way, but Jesus—as He does—switched things up because He knew what the man really needed. He knew what it would take for the man’s faith to grow deeper.
Allowing Your Faith to Grow and Thrive
Sometimes when we come to Jesus, we come with our ideas about what we need and what’s going to help our faith. We come with safe requests, or we expect Him to move ways similar to what He has done before. However, we serve a God who is extremely creative. He rarely, if ever, does the same thing twice. And our faith can thrive in God’s creative ways if we just trust Him.
This passage is an invitation to ask Jesus for things that aren’t safe. To ask Him to do things logic says are impossible—things where we have to go solely on faith that He is good and He is God. It’s an invitation to stop being safe in how we relate with Him and press into the full weight of who He is, trusting that He will do what is necessary to help our faith to grow.
He is Jesus. He is capable. He is mighty. He is our Rock. He. Is. God.
He went again to Cana of Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. There was a certain royal official whose son was ill at Capernaum. When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea into Galilee, he went to him and pleaded with him to come down and heal his son, since he was about to die. Jesus told him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” “Sir,” the official said to him, “come down before my boy dies.” “Go,” Jesus told him, “your son will live.” The man believed what[n] Jesus said to him and departed. While he was still going down, his servants met him saying that his boy was alive. 52 He asked them at what time he got better. “Yesterday at one in the afternoon[o] the fever left him,” they answered. 53 The father realized this was the very hour at which Jesus had told him, “Your son will live.” So he himself believed, along with his whole household. Now this was also the second sign Jesus performed after he came from Judea to Galilee. John 4:46-53 CSB