We are continuing our verse by verse study of the Fourth Gospel. We have seen that the concept of a new beginning has been part of Lazarus' agenda since the beginning of chapter 2. In the account of the water turned to wine in 2:1-11 Yeshua was the new wine replacing the old systems of Judaism. In the cleansing of the Temple in 2:13-22 Yeshua introduced the new Messianic age with Himself as the new Temple for worship. In the dialog with Nicodemus in 3:1-21 the entrance to the Kingdom of God is brought about by the new birth. In the dialog with the Samaritan woman in 4:4-42 Yeshua describes the new worship in the Spirit of truth. The overarching theme is that Yeshua replaces Judaism.
The ending account of the Samaritan story says:
Many more believed because of His word; John 4:41 NASB
Apart from His ability to tell the Samaritan woman her life history (4:17 ,29), Yeshua did nothing miraculous in Samaria. The Samaritans believed simply on the basis of His teaching:
and they were saying to the woman, "It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world." John 4:42 NASB
The Samaritans are the first to recognize that the salvation Yeshua is offering is for all the nations of the world! So we pick up this morning with the next verse:
After the two days He went forth from there into Galilee. John 4:43 NASB
"The two days" are those that Yeshua spent ministering to the Samaritans because they asked Him to stay and teach them. He now resumed the trip to Galilee that was mentioned in:
He left Judea and went away again into Galilee. And He had to pass through Samaria. John 4:3-4 NASB
He was on His way to Galilee, but it was a divine necessity that He pass through Samaria. What we saw happen in Samaria was the fulfillment of prophecy. The Samaritans who were "Not My People" become "My People," in fulfillment of Hosea's prophecy.
"He went forth from there into Galilee"—you may have noticed that Lazarus gives many geographic references in this Gospel. Geography plays a symbolic role in the Fourth Gospel. The northern regions of the Galilee and Samaria accept Yeshua in faith, but the southern region of Judea and Jerusalem become increasingly antagonistic toward Him as His ministry continues. It is because of this that Lazarus will classify the enemies of Christ as "the Jews," those of Judea who are the unbelieving leaders of Judea and Jerusalem.
Galilee is where Yeshua grew up in Nazareth. About 10 miles north of Nazareth was Cana, where our story for today takes place and where He turned water to wine, and about 15 miles east from Cana was Capernaum. Let's look at a couple of texts that may give people a negative view of Galilee:
They were amazed and astonished, saying, "Why, are not all these who are speaking Galileans? Acts 2:7 NASB
Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Yeshua. Acts 4:13 NASB
From these passages the idea has come about that Yeshua, like His disciples, was basically ignorant and uneducated because He was from Galilee. The implication is that Galilee was a hick town and that the people who lived there were basically ignorant.
This thinking is fundamentally in error. People tend to think of Jerusalem as the center of learning, and Galilee as some back woods uneducated place. But the level of learning and education in Galilee exceeded that of Judea in Yeshua's day. Galilee surpassed even Judea in its schools of learning, and most of the famous rabbis of Yeshua's day were from Galilee. According to professor Shmuel Safrai, Hebrew University Professor of Jewish History of the period of the Misnah and Talmud, not only did the number of first-century Galilean rabbis known from rabbinic literature exceed the number of Judean rabbis, but even the moral and ethical quality of their teaching excelled that of their Judean counterparts. This is the world where Yeshua ministered.
Many see a contradiction between the proverb stated by Yeshua in verse 44 and the reception of the Galileans in verse 45:
For Yeshua Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country. So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him John 4:44-45 NASB
The big question here is what is Yeshua's "own country"? The Greek word translated here as "country" is patris, which can mean either homeland or hometown. It comes from patri, which is father in Greek, His fatherland, the place His ancestors came from. It's used six times in the Synoptics always to describe "Nazareth" (Matt. 13:57; Mark 6:4; Luke 4:24). And you know the story of what happened to Him when He went to Nazareth? He preached one sermon and they tried to kill him.
So some identify patris with Galilee. They see Galilee as it represents Jewish soil over against Samaritan soil. In Samaria Yeshua has just enjoyed His first unqualified, unopposed, and open-hearted success. Now He returns to His own people and, consistent with the pattern developed so far, the response is at best ambiguous. So because they see Galilee as His patris they see a contradiction between the proverb the reception of the Galileans.
I think a better explanation of patris is that Lazarus viewed Judea as Yeshua's homeland, or possibly Jerusalem as His hometown. After all, as Messiah, Yeshua would be a son of David, and of Judahite descent, according to the flesh. We saw in 1:11 that Yeshua came to "His own" and they did not receive Him. His own are "Jews," "Judeans" in the broad sense of the term. This allows for a contrast with the welcome reception of the Smaritans and the Galileans. So Lazarus seems to apply the term patris quite differently from the Synopic writers. That shouldn't surprise us:
So when He came to Galilee, the Galileans received Him, having seen all the things that He did in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves also went to the feast. John 4:45 NASB
The "so" or "therefore" introduces the reason for the Galileans' reception of Him that follows. He had left Galilee almost unknown; and He returns as a celebrity. Many Galileans had been at the Passover in Jerusalem and had told their neighbors "all the things that He did in Jerusalem at the feast." What do you think that Yeshua did in Jerusalem that impressed these Galileans? His miracles? I'm sure that that was part of it. But I think many of the Galilean pilgrims at the Temple were sick at the way the Temple establishment or merchants acted. We talked about the corruption of the Temple in our study of chapter 2. The sacrifices to be offered in the Temple needed to be certified as "without blemish" by a priest, who charged for the service. If they brought their own animal, it would most likely be rejected, so people were forced to buy their approved sacrifices. Many pilgrims would purchase a sacrifice in the Temple rather than herd it for several days on their way to the Holy City for Passover. It was a convenience to purchase sacrifices at the Temple, but the price gouging was often terrible.
There is a cultural divide between Judea and Galilee implied throughout this Gospel and the Gospel tradition. So I think what impressed them was Yeshua's cleansing of the Temple:
The Passover of the Jews was near, and Yeshua went up to Jerusalem. And He found in the temple those who were selling oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. And He made a scourge of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen; and He poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables; and to those who were selling the doves He said, "Take these things away; stop making My Father's house a place of business." John 2:13-16 NASB
To the more Biblically astute Galileans this would have gotten their attention.
"They themselves also went to the feast"—why had the Galileans been in Jerusalem for the Feast?:
"Three times in a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses, at the Feast of Unleavened Bread and at the Feast of Weeks and at the Feast of Booths, and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. Deuteronomy 16:16 NASB
Unleavened Bread was a "Pilgrim Feast" and so all serious Israelites of the Galilee had been in Jerusalem to keep the feast.
Therefore He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum. John 4:46 NASB
"He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine"—so Yeshua is back in Cana where He turned the water to wine at the wedding. This story has many similarities to the miracle of the wine. In both, Yeshua has just returned to Galilee from Judea, a request is made of Him; Yeshua appears to refuse the request, the request is intensified, the request is granted in a mysterious way, and a group of people come to believe in Yeshua.
Royal official—is from the Greek basilikos, which means: "a man who served a king, in either a civil or a military capacity." This official may be a Roman officer assigned by the Romans to serve Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great and the ruler of Galilee.
Irenaeus in the 2nd century A.D. in Against Heresies II.22.3 says, "Many ancient and modern scholars have suggested that John's account of the royal official's son is the same event that is recounted in Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10:
And when Yeshua entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, "Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented." Yeshua said to him, "I will come and heal him." But the centurion said, "Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. "For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, 'Go!' and he goes, and to another, 'Come!' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this!' and he does it." Now when Yeshua heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, "Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel... And Yeshua said to the centurion, "Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed." And the servant was healed that very moment. Matthew 8:5-13 NASB
The major difference in the stories is that the official in Matthew and Luke is a centurion, and that the concern is for a servant and not a son. However, in ancient times a son, or daughter, who was a minor (under the father's care) was considered to be like a servant. It would not be unusual for a father in the first century to refer to a young child as his "servant." Notice what Paul says in:
Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, Galatians 4:1 NASB
The Greek word, pais, can be used to refer to either a servant or a son. If the officer referred to the sick lad as his pais the same story could have ended up in the different Gospels with son in one Gospel and servant in the others.
There are many similarities between this healing of the official's son and the healing of the centurion's servant described in Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10. In all three accounts the official is from Capernaum. In all three a person of rank asks a favor of Yeshua. Matthew and Luke specify the official as a centurion and thus a Roman soldier and thus a Gentile. In all three Gospels the issue of healing is evaded by something else Yeshua says or does. In all three a second, more urgent, request is made for healing. Finally, in all three accounts, the healing is done at a distance and confirmed when the officer returned to his home.
The similarities and differences create a difficult problem for scholarly analysis. Is it more likely that two separate but similar incident happened? Or it is more likely that there was only one such healing described in different ways by Lazarus and the Synoptic Gospels? Though the differences point toward two healings, most scholars are convinced by the similarities Lazarus and the Synoptics are describing the same event from different perspectives.
It is my opinion that this is the same royal official of Matthew 8:5 and Luke 7:2. In those passages he is identified as a Roman centurion. That he makes no mention of Yeshua being the Messiah or the Prophet like the woman of Samaria or a man from God like Nicodemus may be an indication that this man is a Gentile. The concept of Messiah or the promised Prophet would not be in the pagan Gentile tradition. So I see this man as a Gentile, which I think is important to the story.
The royal official is from "Capernaum"—which along with Korazin, and Bethsaida formed a triangle. These cities are about three miles apart. According to the Gospels, about 70% of Yeshua's teaching took place in or next to these three cities.
Capernaum was a small village of about 2,500 people. It was in its day Harvard or Yale. If you take the Mishnah—the record of Jewish thinking from A.D. 0-100— there are more quotes from rabbis of Capernaum than all the rest of the rabbis of the world put together. The Synagogue school found in Capernaum is four times larger than any other Synagogue school found until the 1500's.
Caperanum was about 15 miles from Cana. Matthew states in 4:13 and 9:1 that Yeshua established His own home here in Peter's house:
When he heard that Yeshua had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and was imploring Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. John 4:47 NASB
This royal official travels about 15 miles to find Yeshua and despite his superior position in society is not too proud to beg this Jewish rabbi for help! He begs Yeshua to make the approximately 15 mile trip from Cana to Capernaum to heal his son. He obviously believed that Yeshua could "heal" people. He believed that Yeshua could help his son or he would not have gone looking for Him. He may have believed this because there are Instances recorded in the Talmud in which those seriously ill, and even at the point of death, were restored by the prayers of celebrated rabbis.
As this man is "imploring Yeshua to come down and heal his son" he has no way of knowing if his son is still alive. His son was at the point of death when he left, he must be desperate.
This man is not coming to Yeshua to learn more about who He is, he comes to Him because he needs help. And I'm sure you're aware that Yahweh often brings adversity into our lives so that we will turn to Him in faith. In Jeremiah 39 Yahweh tells Ebed-melech the Ethiopian:
"But I will deliver you on that day," declares the LORD, "and you will not be given into the hand of the men whom you dread. "For I will certainly rescue you, and you will not fall by the sword; but you will have your own life as booty, because you have trusted in Me," declares the LORD.'" Jeremiah 39:17-18 NASB
Yahweh delivers Ebed-melech because he trusts Him. Yahweh wants us to trust Him in any and every situation of life. And we learn to do this only through adversity.
This man is desperate, and in his desperation he turns to Christ. In our tough times we tend to do the same, but we tend to neglect the Lord when things are good with us. How much time do you spend in prayer when you are on vacation?
So Yeshua said to him, "Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe." John 4:48 NASB
This is a third class conditional sentence with a strong double negative. And you may be thinking, How can Yeshua be so insensitive to this hurting man's need? I don't think He is. Yeshua used the plural "you," indicating that this unbelief was typical of most of the group that He is speaking to. The Jews were seeking signs. But this servant of Herod believed, as we will see, before any sign was given.
Yeshua's mention of "signs" pointed to the significance of His miracles. The Greek word used for sign is semeion, which means: "a mark, an indication or a token." It can also mean: "an event that is an indication or confirmation of intervention by transcendent powers or a miracle." It is used of miraculous acts as tokens of divine authority and power. Remember what Nicodemus said?:
this man came to Yeshua by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." John 3:2 NASB
The "signs" indicated that God was with Him.
This is the only place in the Fourth Gospel where "wonders" occurs. The word "wonders" is from the Greek word teras, which underscores its effect on those who are witnesses. It is used to indicate the astonishment that the work produces upon the beholders. On many occasions, the crowds were amazed and astonished by the miracles the apostles were doing.
What Yeshua says in our text is similar to the statement that He made in Matthew:
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." Matthew 12:38 NASB
To which Yeshua replied:
But He answered and said to them, "An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Matthew 12:39-40 NASB
The Pharisees were asking for a miracle that would prove Yeshua had authority and show what sort of authority it was, but Yeshua tells them no other sign will be given to show His authority but the decisive one which is the resurrection. That was the ultimate sign, and they didn't believe that either:
The royal official said to Him, "Sir, come down before my child dies." John 4:49 NASB
Yeshua's comment about signs didn't affect this man's mission one bit. He continues to beg Yeshua to help his son.
He calls him "sir" which is kurios in the Greek, which means both: "sir" and "lord." He is addressing Yeshua with respect. This is the same term that the Samaritan woman used for Yeshua.
The word for child here is paidion. He evidently was a small boy because that is a diminutive that is it's a word of affection that one would use for a little boy or a little child. In these three verses Lazarus uses three different terms of son. In verse 50 He uses hyios, in verse 51 He uses pais:
Yeshua said to him, "Go; your son lives." The man believed the word that Yeshua spoke to him and started off. John 4:50 NASB
He wanted Yeshua to go with him to Capernaum but Yeshua tells him to "Go"! The man didn't argue with Him, "I really need you to come with me," he didn't ask for a sign that his son would live. He simply left. The man believed what Christ said, "Your son lives." He understood what Christ was saying, and he believed it. He believed and went. The official seized the promise, and departed for home alone, demonstrating that he "believed" Yeshua could heal from a distance.
This is faith—understanding and assent to a proposition. This official became a model of what it means to believe apart from signs.
Now let me ask you, and be honest, What would you do at this point? Would you run all the way home? That would be doubt looking for proof.
We know from the following verses that the son was healed at this moment. So what were the servants thinking that were with the boy? Their master's son was at the point of death, then all of a sudden he gets up and is fine. They don't know if their master has found Yeshua or not. So they head out to find him to tell him the good news:
As he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living. John 4:51 NASB
So somewhere in between Cana and Capernaum the Official and his servants meet.
They tell him that his son is alive. He is okay:
So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, "Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him." John 4:52 NASB
Any thing seem strange to you in this verse? When did he get better? Yesterday! His son was healed yesterday at 1:00 p.m. Roman system of reckoning time, it would have been 7 p.m. By the Jewish system, it would have been 1:00 p.m. He recognizes (his servants do not) that that is the exact time that Yeshua tells him that his son would live.
Cana and Capernaum were only a short distance apart, the journey could have easily been made in six to eight hours. It was one o'clock when Yeshua pronounced the boy healed. It would be normal for an individual to get on his chariot or horse or whatever he had or even walk and go the fifteen miles back to find out how his son was if he was at the point of death? But this man evidently stayed over in the town where he was. Such strong faith had the nobleman in Christ's word, that he didn't return home until the next day. Yeshua call this "great" faith:
Now when Yeshua heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, "Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. Matthew 8:10 NASB
In Luke 17:5 the disciples asked Yeshua to increase their faith. In Acts 6:8, Stephen was said to be "full of faith." The Greek word for "full" is pleres, which means: "complete or mature." In 1 Thessalonians 3:10, Paul said he wanted to perfect that which was lacking in their faith. In 2 Thessalonians 1:3, Paul said, "Your faith grows exceedingly." James talks about "dead" faith in 2:17 and 20, and he talks about "mature" faith in 2:22.
So the Scriptures speak of: little faith, great faith, weak faith, strong faith, lacking faith, perfect faith, dead faith, full faith, growing faith, and increasing faith. There are degrees of faith. All believers don't have the same amount of faith. Some believers are weak in faith. Some believers have dead faith.
How can we increase our faith? There are two main factors which determine the strength of our faith. First, is our knowledge of God. The main explanation of the troubles and difficulties that most Christians experience in their lives is due to a lack of knowledge about God, theology proper. We need to study the revelation that God has given of Himself and of His character. That is how to develop strong faith. The more you know God, the more you will trust Him.
Martin Luther said to Erasmus, "Your thoughts of God are too human." I think that is true of most Christians:
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Romans 10:17 NASB
We need to study the Word that we may know Him. It's hard to trust someone you don't know. Our faith is so weak because we are not acquainted with the Word of God, we don't read the Word. And in not reading, we don't become acquainted with the God of the Word. And so our trust in the character of God is deficient.
The second element to increasing our faith is the application of what we know. A knowledge that never ventures out upon what it knows will never be a strong faith.
At times we do apply what we know, and we come through the problems and difficulties of life victorious; like David when he faced Goliath. And yet at other times we become consumed with our circumstances, and we do not apply our faith; like David before Achish the king of Gath. David was scared to death, and he changed his behavior and pretended he was crazy. He began to scribble on the doors and drool all over himself (1 Sam. 21:13). What happened to the giant killer? He wasn't applying his faith. He forgot about his God. Have you ever done that? You think your faith is strong; then you have a trial, a situation that causes you to panic and drool all over yourself. At those times we need to focus on God, to meditate on Him and apply what we know.
What is interesting to me is that both the miracles performed at Cana seem to be
prompted by trust. Mary trusted her Son to do something to relieve the embarrassment of their host at the wedding. The father of the sick boy was equally confident that He could rely on Yeshua's help. Yeshua's first sign came in response to a mother's trust (2:1-5), but this second one came in response to a father's trust:
So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Yeshua said to him, "Your son lives"; and he himself believed and his whole household. John 4:53 NASB
Here we see the royal official coming to faith in Christ, "He himself believed." "Your son lives"—he uses the verb zoe three times in this text. Lazarus normally avoids the verb and noun zoe except when referring to eternal life, but makes an exception here. It seems like he wants us to see the restoration of life here as an allusion to Christ's gift of eternal life. It prefigures the announcement in the next chapter that Yeshua raises the dead.
This is the reason this Gospel was written:
Therefore many other signs Yeshua also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Yeshua is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. John 20:30-31 NASB
This official believed, he trusted Christ and was saved. Salvation is only by faith. This man was born again by the spirit of the sovereign God. God opened his heart.
"He himself believed and his whole household"—this is the first of many accounts where one person's belief affected the whole family. We see this with Cornelius (Acts 10:44-48); Lydia (Acts 16:15); the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:31-34); Crispus (Acts 18:8). The Middle East is much more tribal and family-oriented than modern cultures, and it was usual for family members to adopt the faith of the head of the household.
I'm sorry to say that this isn't the way the stories always end. Sometimes the child stays sick, sometimes the child dies. Things don't always work out the way we want them to. The Lord doesn't always answer our prayers for healing:
This is again a second sign that Yeshua performed when He had come out of Judea into Galilee. John 4:54 NASB
Lazarus, interestingly, called this miracle the "second sign that Yeshua performed, even though He did other miracles in both Galilee and Judea, after He had changed the water to wine (cf. 2:23; 3:2). This is the "second" of seven miracles that Lazarus labeled in his Gospel as signs. The first sign in this Gospel shows Yeshua's power over time, and the second sign shows His power over space.
Lazarus explained further that Yeshua "performed" this sign after "He had come out of Judea into Galilee." This section seems to be an inclusio, framed by two miracles in Cana, with two conversations occurring between them. When verse 46 places Yeshua in Cana of Galilee he had completed a full circle. From Cana in chapter 2 Yeshua had gone to Jerusalem and now has returned to Cana again.
Looking back over these three encounters beginning with Nicodemus in Jerusalem capital of Judea, and then with the woman in Samaria, and finally with the Gentile royal official in Galilee can you see a foreshadowing of the spread of the Gospel?
At the ascension, Yeshua commands the Apostles and disciples to carry the Gospel message first to Jerusalem and Judea, next to Samaria, and finally to the Gentile nations of the world. In these three encounters Yeshua has taken His message to a Jew of Jerusalem in Judea, to a woman of Samaria and (if the royal official is the Roman centurion) to a Gentile who represents the nations of the world.