JOHN 4: 43 -54
After the two days he went from there into the Galilee.(For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honour in his own country.) So when he came into the Galilee, the Galileans received him warmly since they had seen everything he had done at the Feast in Jerusalem; for they also went to the Feast.
So he came again to Cana of Galilee where he had made the water into wine. And at Capernaum there was a royal official whose son was ill. Hearing that Jesus had come from Judaea into the Galilee, this man approached him and begged him to come down and heal his son, who was close to death. But Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and marvels you will not trust.”
The royal official said to him, “Sir, just come down before my child dies!”
Jesus said to him, “Go home, your son will live.”
The man trusted the word that Jesus spoke to him and set off. Now as he was travelling home his slaves met him saying, “Your son lives!”
Then he asked them what time he began to improve, and they told him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour, the fever left him.”
The father knew that it was the hour at which Jesus said to him, “Your son will live.”And he himself and all his household put their trust in Jesus.
This is the second sign which Jesus did when he came from Judaea into the Galilee.
(translated MVAMAIR 2017)
The author reminds his audience that Jesus “belonged” to Judaea. He gives no specific location other than his indication that his home was near where John was baptizing. Mark on the other hand suggests that he belonged to Capernaum in the Galilee, while sharing with Matthew and Luke the information that his parental home and business was in Nazareth. This author is concerned to show that Jesus came to his own Judaeans who did not receive him, while the Galileans welcomed him as a prophet whose actions they had seen in the temple. Repeatedly the Judaeans are named as the opposition to the Creative Wisdom of God in Jesus.
The official who begs Jesus to heal his son is presumably moved to do so by the reputation of Jesus amongst the Galileans. Jesus challenges his faith with an accusation that he is one of those who demands marvels before he will trust. The man simply reiterates his son’s need and is answered by a command to go home along with the promise that his son will live. This is a severe test of trust, but the man does trust Jesus’ word. The fact that the time of the boy’s recovery matches the time of Jesus’ promise is proof of the power of Jesus’ word, but the mention of the seventh hour almost certainly is meant to remind the audience that at the end of Jesus’ life he was on a Roman cross at the seventh hour of the day. This play with times of day is meant to tell the informed reader that all the power of Jesus flows from his self-sacrifice.
This healing takes place in Cana where Jesus was revealed as the true Bridegroom who brings the New Wine of God’s goodness. In this episode that goodness is seen at work in healing the official’s son. The story emphasises the healing which arouses trust, and the trust which makes healing possible.
The modern reader asks what this is all about given that many children die daily from disease, and are not healed in spite of the anguished prayers of their parents. Did the author of the Gospel not know this, or did he think that true prayers would always be answered? Or was he so wrapped up in theology that he didn’t think what bereaved parents might feel, reading his story?
We can only understand this story when we ask these questions. The author tells us to look for answers in the crucifixion of Jesus.
I do feel that the parents you allude to at the end will not be satisfied with the crucifixion as their answer. But in fact we don’t have any other answer, do we? It’s hard to talk theology to parents of seriously sick or dying children, or children dying of hunger. But I like the way Jesus provokes this official – like he provoked the woman with talk of dogs and crumbs. In the final analysis, it is all about signs and wonders, isn’t it? And that’s not what the Creative Wisdom of God is all about. Major things to think about, thanks.