By Tyson Thorne

June 20, 2019

John 13 Large

The end of chapter four is another story of faith, but one that differs greatly from the others we've encountered thus far. We've seen a man looking for faith, and a woman and foreign people embracing faith. Here we have a man who exhibits a developed faith. The story appears simple enough by itself, and it is, but there is more to be understood when we look at the greater context. This wider look at the story will answer questions like, where did the Roman official gain such faith in Jesus? Before we get started, read the story in John 4.46-54.

The starts in Cana, where Jesus performed his first miracle of turning the water into wine. It is about 20 miles from Capernaum. Located on the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee the great city had long been a hub of trade and government with a strong economy. It is the home of our royal official (royal in that he was related to Herod the great). A family man, not one of the gospels tell us how he knew Jesus. We have to do a bit of conjecture here, but it is likely he never met Jesus. He may have heard of Jesus' first miracle, and holding such an esteemed position he was likely in Jerusalem when Jesus caused the ruckus at the Temple. While he didn't know Jesus, he knew of Jesus, and it was enough to convince him to travel 20 miles to seek him out in order to save his son's life.

When Jesus cleared the temple, what was it the Pharisees demanded of him (2.18)? The demanded a sign. The sign he gave them wasn't what they expected. It was a prophecy about his resurrection. Then when Jesus returned to his homeland, what was it they asked for? Remember, we had to look at the Mark and Luke passages for the whole story. They asked Jesus for a sign. On this occasion he gave them no sign. Now examine the exchange between the royal and Jesus.

Modern translations supply words missing in the text. This isn't bad, the Greek language often omits direct objects when they are implied, and other words may be supplied to indicate the tense of a word. Translation is tricky business. Looking at the source, however, we can state the exchange as something more terse:

"Come down, for my child dies" the royal says, using the imperative voice. As a ruler this was probably his customary form of speech, not a slight or rudeness.
"Go, for your son lives" Jesus replies, also in the imperative. The result is that the royal "took Jesus at his word" and went home.

The ruler believed Jesus because he had already heard testimony about what Jesus could do. This correlates with the Samaritan woman and the people of her town. She heard Jesus testify about himself, and the people heard her testimony, which resulted in faith. The royal had heard testimony about Jesus from others and believed as well. Faith is born from and grows through testimony. This is one reason why reading the Bible is so important in the life of a believer. It is the testimony of God about himself.

There is one more component needed to complete one's faith, however. In the modern age we think that knowledge is power, but what good is power unless it is used? Action is the missing ingredient. Testimony leads to faith which leads to action. This is why we baptize people, it is an action that completes our faith. In the case of our passage, the royal's faith was completed when he obeyed Jesus and left for home, for it was at that very moment his son was healed.

By examining this story in the light of everything we've read so far, from chapter two forward, we come to a greater understanding not only of the royal's faith but our own as well.

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