How do we demonstrate faith in Jesus? There is a surface faith in which there is no depth. Many today demonstrate a faith that has not content. This is better described as credulity. Ultimately, surface faith will be tested and found wanting. This will result in renouncing the object of faith because it was based upon improper foundations. This is what happened to so many in Israel, despite all the miracles Jesus performed there. Today we will see how one is confronted in his faith and how he responds to it
Exposition of the Text
Verse 43 states that after two days, Jesus and His disciples came into Galilee. These two days refer back to Jesus’ stay with the Samaritans. Many had believed on Him there, even though they were of mixed race and despised by the Jews. But they had accepted Jesus, a Jew, as their Messiah, and not just their Messiah. They were the first to recognize that Jesus was the Savior of all the world, not just Israel.
Verse 44 is puzzling. The Gospel of Luke records this about Jesus in relation to His rejection by his hometown of Nazareth. Is this the case here, and John just passes over the synagogue incident? Or is it referring back to Jesus’ rejection by the Jewish establishment in Judaea? They had rejected Him, but the Samaritans had accepted and honored him? This idea of coming unto His own, but his own received him not is mentioned in the eleventh verse of the first chapter and is a major theme of the gospel. This rejection was by His own Jewish nation as a whole and not just Nazareth. Another possibility is that even though the following verses show that the Jews of Galilee received Him eagerly, their commitment was shallow. Jesus who knows all hearts and what is truly in man knew this. In the end, All Israel would reject Him. He was not fooled by the Hosanna’s on Palm Sunday. He would not be deceived here either.
Jesus is emphatic when He made the statement that a prophet is without honor in his own country, Literally, the Greek says “For Jesus HIMSELF had solemnly testified, that “A prophet in his own country honor has not. What is emphasized is that Jesus had made the statement Himself and the stress of his statement is on the word “honor”. The fact that the quote is framed in the past tense indicates that Jesus had made this statement at an earlier time (the Nazareth rejection?), and that John is using it here as an editorial comment.
On the surface, verse 45 appears to indicate that Jesus received a hero’s welcome when He came back to Nazareth. They had heard and personally witnessed the mighty miracles Jesus had done in Jerusalem at the Passover. They were probably also welcoming to the Temple cleansing as the high and mighty Jerusalemites looked down their noses at the rustic Galileans. They probably had hopes that Jesus would be the Messiah they were looking for, a political deliverer who would overthrow the Romans and purge out the corruption in the Jewish priesthood.
Verse 46 states that Jesus returned to the city of Cana in Galilee where John comments here that Jesus had made the water wine. In a sense, John is taking us back to the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. This would serve as a reset to Jesus’ ministry to the Jews. This time though, it would not be to help a poor couple avoid embarrassment at a wedding feast. This time it would be a nobleman who had a sick son. The text says that he had learned in Capernaum that Jesus had returned. He went personally to Cana to see Jesus and ask Him to heal his son. The nobleman feared for his son’s life and had obviously heard about the reports of the miracles He had done in Judaea which in all likelihood included healings. So he came believing that Jesus could heal his son as well.
Jesus answer to the nobleman’s request is unexpected. Instead of telling the man that he would come and heal the man’s son or simply speaking the word that the boy was healed, Jesus rebuffs him and all within earshot instead very harshly. “Unless you all see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” Jesus had given His mother a mild and polite rebuke in her request to intervene at the poor couple’s wedding. But Jesus gives an answer that was rather insulting, especially as this man was of high birth. The nobleman could have had Jesus arrested for insulting his honor.
Instead of responding with anger to Jesus’ rebuke, this nobleman swallows his pride. He loves his son. He knows Jesus is the only hope the boy has. In this, his faith is sound. He responds politely and reverently, addressing Jesus as his superior. “Sir (Lord), please come as my son is about to die.” Again, this nobleman by his deference and respectful answer shows that he understands more about Jesus than the leaders in Jerusalem did. He comes to Jesus as a client and sees Jesus as a benefactor.
In verse 50, Jesus then gives the answer the nobleman had hoped for, and that we all expected. “Go your way, your son will live.” The text continues that the nobleman believed Jesus, and was in the process of returning home when his servants met him with the good news that his son had recovered. He asked them when the boy started to get better and found out it was at the same hour that Jesus had told him that his son would recover. John then notes that because of this, the nobleman personally came to faith in Jesus. Not only this, but his whole house believed as well.
The passage ends with the note that this was the second sign Jesus performed and that he did this second sign after he returned from Judaea into Galilee. This, like the first sign, was performed at Cana in Galilee. This use of sign here has special significance. Jesus had done many miracles in between the first and second miracles called signs at Cana. These signs point out the work of Jesus in a way that the others do not. In this case, the nobleman demonstrates the faith that Jesus was looking for in the Jewish people as a whole.
The faith Jesus is looking for is based upon the proper understanding relationship between Jesus and those who would be His followers. This relationship is that of Jesus as benefactor and the believer as client. Jesus sharp answer to the nobleman was meant to affirm that the nobleman understood this. The nobleman by his submission to Jesus, even though he was in life a nobleman to whom others deferred, demonstrated that he understood this.
We do not know whether the nobleman came with this proper understanding of faith or whether Jesus by his confrontation brought him to this faith. But he believed and went home. He still needed to have his faith confirmed by his servant’s report about the hour of healing, an hour which ultimately like the first sign at the wedding points forward to the cross. The result was that the nobleman AND his course came to a true and living faith. If we possess this true faith, then others will come to faith as a result.
In the first sign of the turning of water into wine, Mary also understood the change of relation between Jesus as her son to Jesus as her Lord. He gives the commands to the servants to do whatever He tells you to do. This is of course very sage advice to us all. Faith is based upon our relationship to Jesus and is demonstrated in obedience.
The question for us, of course, is the same. Is Jesus Lord to whom we come in humble submission bringing our requests to Him as our benefactor, or are we coming to him as though we were Lord and He a slave? A benefactor is under no obligation to grant the request of the client. There is some obligation on his part socially to be attentive to is clients, but he is under no legal obligation. This is true for the Lord Jesus, also. It is God who is free to offer grace to the client on his terms and not the client’s terms. He is also free to withhold it. The Scripture does reveal that God is a gracious and loving benefactor. He is willing to hear our prayers and requests. Nevertheless, it is Jesus who is Lord, not us.
James tells us that when we don’t receive the answers to the prayers we offer it is because we ask amiss or we ask for selfish things (James 4:3). In the context of this passage, we can see that what the nobleman had asked for was not a selfish request for things to consume in his own lust. He had a genuine request. But what if the nobleman instead of submitting to the authority of Jesus as a superior instead acted as we all too often do, demanding Jesus to do something for us as though He were our inferior? Jesus, or course, would have been free to grant the request anyway out of His grace. He healed many in Israel who later proved to be faithless and unthankful. In the same way, Jesus might still answer our requests, even foolish ones. Sometimes to comes with a hard learned lesson later. There is a common wisdom, saying: “Be careful what you ask for, you might just get it”.
Jesus is looking for the nobleman’s faith, that this kind of faith might be found in us. How do we come to Him? Do we come like so many in Israel as demanding and unthankful children? Do we honor Jesus with our lips while having hearts that are remote from Him? These are painful questions that we must ask ourselves. What does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus anyway? If Jesus were to confront us personally the way he did the nobleman’s son or the Syro-Phonecian woman, and He will, how will we respond?