When the two days were over, Jesus went from that place to Galilee (for he himself had testified that a prophet has no honour in the prophet’s own country). When he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the festival; for they too had gone to the festival. Then he came again to Cana in Galilee where he had changed the water into wine. Now there was a royal official whose son lay ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went and begged him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. Then Jesus said to him, ‘Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.’ The official said to him, ‘Sir, come down before my little boy dies.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go; your son will live.’ The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started on his way. As he was going down, his slaves met him and told him that his child was alive. So he asked them the hour when he began to recover, and they said to him, ‘Yesterday at one in the afternoon the fever left him.’ The father realized that this was the hour when Jesus had said to him, ‘Your son will live.’ So he himself believed, along with his whole household. Now this was the second sign that Jesus did after coming from Judea to Galilee.
“Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honour in the prophet’s own country. When he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him.” Galilee was his own place, but, contrary to his statement, he was honoured there. Is there a contradiction here? I think we should use our common sense. When we talk about a country or a region we don't expect all the people there to have identical views.
He was met by a “royal official”. John does not say whether this official was a Jew or a Gentile, but it wouldn't have made a big difference: anyone working for Herod would be considered contemptible. This man asked Jesus to heal his son, and Jesus’ reply seems rather abrupt: “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” But in Greek the verb is in the plural: it seems that while Jesus was addressing the official he was also aware of the crowd and their reluctance to believe. But if Jesus could heal the son of a despised official, then perhaps they would begin to understand that God’s love is without limits or preferences – a teaching that was new at the time, but which would become common in the future: Acts 10:34; Rom 2:11; Gal 2:6; 1 Pt 1:17.
Told that his son would live, the official set out on a twenty-mile walk with nothing but the word of Jesus to reassure him. John’s Gospel, which tells us nothing by accident, is telling us that the life of faith is just like that; we have the word of Jesus to rely on, nothing else. The other things we use to surround the word of Jesus add nothing to it: buildings, organisations, traditions.... These unfold the word of Jesus to us, the word that is Jesus, but they add nothing to it.
The official’s request was as simple and humble as the tax collector’s prayer in the Temple (see March 14). “Sir, come down before my little boy dies.” It must be one of the most basic prayers of any age or continent. There isn't a human being in the world who could fail to understand it. Even the animals and birds would pray like this if they could talk. Whether one is Jew or Gentile, what matters is distilled humanity.
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