Now after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee. For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country. Then when he was come into Galilee, the Galilaeans received him, having seen all the things that he did at Jerusalem at the feast: for they also went unto the feast. So Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus was come out of Judaea into Galilee, he went unto him, and besought him that he would come down, and heal his son: for he was at the point of death. Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe. The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die. Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. Then inquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house. This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.
Now after two days He departed thence” (v. 43). We have been considering our Savior’s ministry in Samaria, that stretch of country that came in between Judea on the south and Galilee on the north. Down in Judea the people, as a rule, were very devoted, almost fanatically religious. Up in Galilee many of them were sinful, godless, and ignorant, and there was a larger group of Gentiles. In Samaria they had a religion that was based partly upon the law of Moses and partly taken from the heathen systems, which their fathers had known before they were settled in that district after the people in Israel proper were carried away by the King of Assyria.
The Lord Jesus had come to Sychar’s well, there to minister in grace to a poor Samaritan woman. She had become an earnest evangelist after she knew Him as her Savior, and as a result a multitude of people came out to listen to Him and believed His message. They invited Him to the village, and there He was two days, making known the precious things of grace and truth. Many of them believed and said, “Now we believe, not just because of the testimony of the woman who said, ‘He told me all things that ever I did,’ but,” they said, “we have seen and heard Him for ourselves.” There was something about the words of Jesus that appealed to every honest, seeking soul.
But the Lord could not linger longer in Samaria. He must go on to Galilee. The prophet had predicted long ago that there would be the greater part of His ministry. In the ninth chapter of Isaiah, in the opening verses, this is definitely referred to. There we read, “Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined” (vv. 1-2). This prophecy had its gracious fulfillment when He, who is Himself the life and light, went about healing the sick and working many other signs of power and opening up the precious things connected with the gospel to those needy people, although the majority of them refused to accept it.
He lived in one of their cities and had been brought up among them. After He had begun His ministry, the family was removed to Capernaum, and this was called his own city. Both Nazareth and Capernaum were outstanding cities of Galilee. We say, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Often the better you know people, the less you think of them as being in any sense remarkable and, unbelievably, that was true in the case of our blessed Lord. As He moved about in those places where the people knew Him so well, they could not seem to recognize in Him the promised Messiah. Jesus Himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his own country. He said this, you remember, when He returned to Nazareth where He had been brought up and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, “as His custom was” (Luke 4:16).
I like that “as His custom was.” Jesus of Nazareth, growing up in that city, set the example of regular attendance upon the means of grace. There must have been a lot about the service that was repugnant to Him, but it was the place where the name of God was acknowledged. It was the place where people gathered for prayer and praise on the Sabbath, and Jesus, as a child, as a youth, as a young man, always wended His way to the village synagogue, for He recognized the place where the things of God were acknowledged. “As His custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day” (Luke 4:16). And He read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (vv. 18-19). Luke tells us, “And he closed the book” (v. 20). If you turn back to Isaiah you would think it was a strange place for Him to read. The rest of the sentence goes on like this, “And the day of vengeance of our God” (Isa. 61:2).
Why did He close the book when He did? why did He stop reading at a comma instead of going on to the end of the sentence? Because He had not come to declare the “day of vengeance of our God.” He came to proclaim the acceptable year of our Lord, and in accord with that He opened up God’s message of grace for the people of that day. Yet the great majority of them turned away from Him and said, “Is not this the carpenter? Don’t we know His mother and sisters and brothers?” (see Mark 6:3). “From whence hath this man these things?” (v. 2). “Why doesn’t he do some mighty works of power?” They hoped to see some miracles worked by Him. So the people rushed upon Him and would have hurled Him over the cliff outside the city, but He went His way, saying, “A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country” (Matt. 13:57).
This gives us some little idea of the lowliness of our Lord Jesus Christ. We might imagine that such an one as He could not grow up in any country but that people would realize instinctively that He must be Lord of all. But He “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7). Few realized who He was. I wonder if we all have recognized Jesus of Nazareth as the Eternal Son of God, who became Man for our redemption?
We read then that when He was come into Galilee they received Him. That is, they thronged to hear Him, but they did not recognize Him as the Holy One of God. They received Him, having seen all the things that He did in Jerusalem at the feast. The Lord was just returning from Jerusalem. We need to realize that there were many, many things that Jesus did that were not recorded in this fourth chapter of the gospel of John. They had seen Him, perhaps, give sight to the blind, cause the lame man to leap, and so forth, and now they hoped to see other miracles wrought and so thronged about Him.
So “Jesus came again into Cana of Galilee, where he made the water wine. And there was a certain nobleman, whose son was sick at Capernaum” (John 4:46), about twenty-five miles northeast of Cana of Galilee. This father had either come a long distance to find Jesus, or being there in Cana, he had received a message that his son was ill and now saw his opportunity to present the case to the great Miracle-Worker. He had no understanding of the true nature of the Lord Jesus Christ, but he did feel that He was one who could meet his need. How often, when men are in distress or in trouble, they feel that if they could get to Jesus, He would do something for them. Yet they do not really know Him as God the Son, manifest in the flesh, but they feel that He is able to do for man what no one else can do.
Men invoke His name in times of distress. That seems to have been the case with this father. He heard that Jesus was come out of Judea, and so he came to beg Him to heal his son. You see what he is asking of Jesus: “Jesus, won’t you take a journey of twenty-five miles and do something for my son? My son is dying, and you have power to heal. You can work miracles. Won’t you come and work a miracle upon him?” And you notice that Jesus answered him in what must have seemed almost a hard way. The Lord turned to him and said, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe” (v. 48).
There are so many people like that, who want to see some outward demonstration of power, and then they think they will believe. But the Lord Jesus Christ wants to be received and trusted because of what He is in Himself, apart from any temporal benefit that might come from knowing Him. I wonder if there are not many who think of the Christ of God as though His great business is to help us. If we are sick or in financial trouble, maybe He will show us a way to get well or to make money. If members of our family are in some distressing circumstances and we are worried about them, perhaps if we go to Jesus He will do something for them. Oh, there is something higher than that! He wants us to learn to see in Him the blessed incarnate Son, who came in grace to reveal the Father and who asks our trust and allegiance because we ought to acknowledge and yield ourselves to Him, even if we never receive any temporal benefit whatsoever.
Real faith in Christ rests upon the fact that He who is God became Man, and in getting to know Him, the Son, we know the Father. I wonder if He could not say to us today, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.” How different was the case of those Samaritans of whom we read in the former chapter! They saw no miracles wrought. We do not read that Jesus healed one of their sick or opened the eyes of one of their blind, but they heard His message and saw His behavior. There was something that so impressed them that they said, “Oh, now we know Him. We have seen Him and have heard Him for ourselves.” This is the work of the Holy Spirit of God today, to make Christ known to men and women in order that they may trust Him as Savior and own Him as Lord of their lives. To know Him as God’s Son, become Man for our redemption, is eternal life. In fact, Jesus Himself says, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).
But this poor father was so taken up with his present need, so concerned about the state of his son, and so fearful he was going to lose this boy that he did not seem to take in exactly what the Lord Jesus Christ was saying. The Lord said, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.” But the man exclaimed, “Come down ere my child die” (4:49). He did not realize that Jesus did not need to go to Capernaum to heal his son. Think of that Roman centurion, not an Israelite, who came to Jesus and said, “I have a servant who is very dear to me who is sick. ‘Speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed’” (Matt. 8:8). He realized that in the word of Christ was power. But this Israelite, who ought to know so much better than that Roman centurion, came far short of that simplicity of faith. The Lord said of the Roman centurion, “I have not met another who has refreshed Me like this one who believes Me and knows that I have all power.” And yet the nobleman believed that Jesus could do something if he could only get Him to come in time to where his son was.
That is so often a question with us. If Jesus would only hurry up! We may be praying for the salvation of someone. We are so afraid that that friend may pass into eternity before he is saved, and we try to hurry the Lord up. So many people write in and ask for special prayer for some sick one, and they say, “Won’t you please hurry up and get this request before your people, for he is very, very sick.” I just bow before the Lord and say, “Thou knowest I cannot get it before the people, but Lord, Thou hast all power, and right here I bring this request to Thee,” and I know He will hear. You do not have to try to hurry Jesus.
Those sisters in Bethany, how troubled they were! Their brother was so sick, and they thought if they just sent a message, that Jesus would drop everything and hurry to Bethany. But four days went by and Jesus had not come. Then He said, “Let us go to Bethany.” And when He arrived the sisters thought it was too late, but Jesus had already told His disciples that He was glad He was not there earlier. You might have expected Him to say, “I am sorry I was not there.” He never makes any mistakes, and He says, “I am glad I wasn’t there, for God is going to be glorified in a way that He would not have been if I had hurried when I received the message to come.” When He said, “Roll away the stone,” they said, “Why, Master, there is no use rolling away the stone. He has been dead four days.” But Jesus said, “Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?” (John 11:40). Then they rolled the stone away and He cried, “Lazarus, come forth” (v. 43). If He had not said “Lazarus” that day, He would have emptied the whole cemetery.
And just as Lazarus came forth, some day all His own will come forth and be caught up to meet Him in the air. We do not need to try to hurry Him. What we do need to learn is to rest in a sense of His love and wisdom and be able to say with the psalmist, “My soul, wait thou only upon God” (Ps. 62:5).
But you see, this dear father did not understand Him. He only knew that his son was tossing in a fever and that any moment it might be too late. He said, “Lord, come! Come twenty-five miles! Don’t waste any time! Come down! Hurry! My child is dying!” But Jesus looked upon him with pity and compassion, and said unto him, “Go thy way; thy son liveth” (John 4:50). He did not need to go down to Capernaum to raise him up. “Go home, your son lives. You will find him well again. You go back to Capernaum. Put away your dread and fear. It will be all right.” And so the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken to him. Now he is growing in confidence. He first believed Jesus could heal the boy if He could get to him, but now he believes He can raise him up though so far away.
My dear friend, have you believed the word of Jesus? Do you know that salvation—not only healing of the body, if it please God—comes from believing the word of Jesus? “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). We read of old, “He sent his word, and healed them” (Ps. 107:20). The apostle Peter said, “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Peter 1:23).
I can remember so well when I was a lad and in great trouble about my soul. Now I had always read my Bible. I had read about angels appearing to people and speaking directly to them. I remember when about twelve, I went to my room and got down on my knees. I said, “O Lord, I have been reading the Word and won’t you please, when I open my eyes, have an angel standing here? Won’t you let that angel tell me that my sins are forgiven?” I was almost afraid to open my eyes. Finally, I opened them. He was not there, and I have never seen an angel yet in all these years. But let me tell you something: I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that my sins are all forgiven. How do I know? I knew it when I took Him at His word, when I accepted His testimony. The Book says, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:10).
O troubled soul, if you have said, “Oh, I wish that I knew that my sins were put away, that my heart was cleansed,” let me urge you to believe the word of Jesus. Just trust Him. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:11-12). And to believe is to trust, to confide in Him.
Well, this man believed the word and went back to Capernaum, and in all those twenty-five miles I fancy doubts would keep coming up: “I wonder about that boy of mine. Jesus said it was all right, that he lived, and that it was all right. I wonder if I shall find him alive!” But finally, how glad he was when he came in sight of Capernaum; for there, right ahead, was a messenger hastening to him, who cried joyously, “It is all right. ‘Thy son liveth’” (4:51). He believed before he got the testimony of his servant. He believed when Jesus said, “Thy son liveth,” and now he had the corroborative testimony of his servants. “Then inquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him” (v. 52). They may have added, “We were watching him and suddenly—we just noticed the hour—the fever left him. A perspiration broke out all over him, and we put our hands on him. From that hour on he has been getting stronger every hour.” Then the father said, “The seventh hour! Why, that’s the very time that I was talking to Jesus! It was that very hour that Jesus said, ‘Thy son liveth.’”
“And himself believed, and his whole house” (v. 53). Oh, there is a higher faith now than before. First, he believed if Jesus could get there He could heal the lad. Second, he believed the word of Jesus, and now he believes in Jesus. And his whole house believed with him. They said, “No one but the Son of God could work such a miracle as this, when He was twenty-five miles away.” We are told, “This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee” (v. 54). He manifested Himself to the people of His own country as the Sent One of the Father. How blessed to realize that although He has been nineteen hundred years in the glory, He is just as able to hear our cries of distress, just as able to heal our bodies today, just as able to meet our needs today as “in the days of his flesh” (Heb. 5:7).