The healing of the royal official’s son (4:46-54) which is part of our text today begins after the dialogue with the Samaritan woman (4:1-42). The first two verses of today’s text (4:43-45) serve as an interlude between the two stories. John uses the saying of the prophet having no honour in his own country, to show why Jesus came to Galilee. In John, Judea is Jesus’ own country and since he was not accepted there, he had to go to others including the Samaritans. Like the Samaritans, the Galileans welcome him.
The first verse of the miracle story that follows is an introduction narrating the case. The son of a royal official is ill in Capernaum. The mention of Cana and a summary of the first miracle of turning water into wine anticipate another miracle. The healing in this miracle, however, is done at a distance. The official makes a request for Jesus to come down and heal his son who is at the point of death. The immediate response of Jesus is directed not to the official alone but to all. That Jesus did heal the official’s son is an indication that his words are not meant merely as a rebuke, but go deeper. Though the people will base their faith in him merely on signs and wonders, Jesus invites them to realize that these are not what will motivate him to act. He will act only in accordance with the will of God. Human expectation cannot determine his action. Even after hearing this seeming rebuke, the official is not deterred. He perseveres in his request. With a word and from a distance, Jesus performs the healing. The official’s faith is Jesus is seen in his obedience to the command to “Go”. He does go on his way.
The attestation of the miracle is provided by the servants of the official who meet him when he is still on his way to his home. The official on further enquiry realizes that Jesus is the one who has performed the healing and is led to faith. The man now believes in Jesus, not only in Jesus’ word.
At the end of the miracle John remarks that this was then second sign that Jesus worked after coming to Galilee. In his Gospel, John always refers to the miracles of Jesus as signs.
Sickness and brokenness are very much visible in our world today and most are in need of some form of healing or another. At times doctors are not able to diagnose an illness and at other times when they are and perform a complicated operation, ask the patient and family members to pray and have faith. There is only so much that they can do, the rest is in God’s hands. The official in the story had probably gone to Jesus as a last resort (his son was not merely ill but at the point of death) after having explored and exhausted all other avenues. He is single minded in his purpose and will let nothing deter him. He believes and perseveres. His faith gains for him not only his son’s life but also the gift of faith in Jesus.
This means that faith cannot be based on external signs alone and remain at that level. If it is and does, then one will look at Jesus as a mere miracle worker. The focus here would be only on the actions of Jesus and not on his person from which his actions flow. If one is able to go beyond the action to the person of Jesus, then one will also be able to see who God is: God with us, for us and in us.