March 27th, 2017: John 4:43-54
The royal official who asks Jesus to come with him to heal the official’s son, who is near death, is a pagan. Jesus’ initial response to the man’s request seems harsh. “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” Why does Jesus respond in this way? The most likely answer is that Jesus wants to teach the man to have faith, to trust. The
official, it seems, would believe only if Jesus went with him to his house. He wanted to see Jesus healing. Most of us have this attitude. We are not aware that is shows lack of faith.
The official loves his dying son so much that he won’t give up. “Sir, come down before my son dies,” he pleads. Jesus still won’t budge. “You may go,” he tells the man, “your son will live.” And now comes a crucial sentence in this story. “The man believed what Jesus had said to him and left.” That shows faith. The man no longer insists on Jesus coming with him. Without any guarantee save Jesus’ word, the official believes. Before he reaches home, his servants come to him with the joyful news that the crisis is past. His son will live. When he asks when the boy began to recover, he learns that it was at the very hour when Jesus had assured him: “Your son will live.” How he must have rejoiced! And how Jesus must have rejoiced at the official’s faith. Later, a week after his resurrection, he would say to his apostle, Thomas, who refused to believe until he actually saw the risen Lord: “You [Thomas] became a believer because you saw me. Blessed are they who have not seen and believed” (John 20:29). This pagan official was one of that blessed company.
The story concludes with another significant sentence: “This was the second sign Jesus did when he came to Galilee from
Judea.” Only in John’s gospel are Jesus’ miracles always called
“signs.” The first of these signs was the changing of water into wine at the
wedding feast in Cana. A sign points beyond
itself to something else. The sign at Cana
shows that when Jesus gives, he does not only abundantly, but super-abundantly.
The quantity of water made wine would have kept the party going for a week! The
sign in today’s gospel shows that Jesus’ love embraces all. He turns no one away. He asks for faith. And when we show even
the smallest beginning of faith, he grants us healing, that our faith may grow
and become complete.