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The conclusion of John 4 is not part of New Testament verses for public worship in the three-year Lectionary.

It recounts a story left out of the Synoptic Gospels — Matthew, Mark and Luke — that of the nobleman’s son.

Its omission from the Lectionary makes it perfect for my continuing series, Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential for our understanding of the Bible.

Today’s reading is from the King James Version, with commentary from Matthew Henry.

John 4:43-54

43Now after two days he departed thence, and went into Galilee.

 44For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country.

 45Then 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.

 46So 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.

 47When 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.

 48Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.

 49The nobleman saith unto him, Sir, come down ere my child die.

 50Jesus 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.

 51And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth.

 52Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.

 53So 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.

 54This is again the second miracle that Jesus did, when he was come out of Judaea into Galilee.

—————————————————————————————————–

St John’s Gospel included miracles that the others do not.  Nonetheless, they are equally as touching and transforming to those who experienced them and increased the number of Jesus’s faithful followers.

Earlier in John 4, Jesus met the Samaritan woman at the well.  She had told other Samaritans that He was amongst them.  He stayed in the area for two days (verse 43), then moved on to Galilee, His destination.

Verse 44 makes a hidden reference to Nazareth, Jesus’s home town.  St John tells us that Jesus recognised that a prophet has no honour on his own territory.  True then, true now, although every truism has some, albeit few, exceptions.  So, He avoided Nazareth and met people from the rest of the region.

Matthew Henry supplies other examples from the Bible where a region’s own leaders were despised:

Joseph, when he began to be a prophet, was most hated by his brethren; David was disdained by his brother (1 Sa. 17:28); Jeremiah was maligned by the men of Anathoth (Jer. 11:21), Paul by his countrymen the Jews; and Christ’s near kinsmen spoke most slightly of him, ch. 7:5.

Yet, why is this?  Henry believes it is because we do not wish to take instruction from people who were our playmates and classmates.  Why should someone we grew up with tell us what to do?  After all, we were once equals as children.  So, resentment grows and persists.  However, when this concerns the Son of God’s earthly travels, it becomes a serious matter.  God directs His Son away from detractors and denies them Jesus’s presence.  As Henry puts it:

It is just with God to deny his gospel to those that despise the ministers of it. They that mock the messengers forfeit the benefit of the message. Mt. 21:35, 41.

The feast to which verse 45 refers is the miracles which Jesus performed in Jerusalem at Passover.  As the Galileans were obliged under Jewish Law to travel to Jerusalem, they would have seen and/or heard of these at the time.  It was, therefore, unsurprising that they would welcome Jesus warmly into their midst.

Jesus’s first stop was Cana (verse 46), where he had previously on another occasion transformed water into wine at the wedding feast. Henry surmises that Jesus was interested to see the fruits of faith now, which would have been sometime after He had performed the miracle and adds:

The evangelist mentions this miracle here to teach us to keep in remembrance what we have seen of the works of Christ.

Whilst in Cana, Jesus meets a nobleman from Capernaum, some distance away.  The man’s son is gravely ill.  The nobleman asks Jesus to go to his house to cure him because he is about to die (verse 47).

Who exactly is this man?  Is it not somewhat arrogant to ask Jesus to travel such a distance?  What sort of faith does this man have, anyway?  Henry expounds on the various theories about this lord of the manor:

Regulus (so the Latin), a little king; so called, either for the largeness of his estate, or the extent of his power, or the royalties that belonged to his manor. Some understand it as denoting his preferment-he was a courtier in some office about the king; others as denoting his party-he was an Herodian, a royalist, a prerogative-man, one that espoused the interests of the Herods, father and son; perhaps it was Chuza, Herod’s steward (Lu. 8:3), or Manaen, Herod’s foster-brother, Acts 13:1.

Yet, Henry adds, even Herod had ‘saints’ around him, and this man, despite his imperfect faith, was one of them.  Presumably, he was accustomed to talking to people as if they were his servants, hence, his request for Jesus to visit his house to cure the boy.  A man in the nobleman’s position would have assumed that people would automatically fulfil his requests as stated.  He had some notion of who Jesus was but, perhaps at that juncture, considered Him more of a faith healer than the Son of God.

Note Jesus’s response to the nobleman’s request (verse 48).  Jesus is indirectly telling the man that He has just spent two days in Samaria with no requested visits and no healings or miracles.  Despite that, many Samaritans believed during those 48 hours that Jesus is Lord.  This is His way of bringing the nobleman down a peg or two.

The nobleman does not take offence at Jesus’s remark (verse 49), although he again asks Jesus to visit his house to effect healing.  Henry contrasts this with the humility of the centurion, who requested healing of his paralysed servant but stated that he was unworthy of Jesus’s presence in his house.  Also note that we may pray to Jesus for healing or relief but we must not tell Him what to do (emphases mine):

The centurion, a Gentile, a soldier, was so strong in faith as to say, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof, Mt. 8:8. This nobleman, a Jew, must have Christ to come down, though it was a good day’s journey, and despairs of a cure unless he come down, as if he must teach Christ how to work. We are encouraged to pray, but we are not allowed to prescribe: Lord, heal me; but, whether with a word or a touch, thy will be done.

The Lord answers prayers in the way He sees fit for us, even though it might not appear that way at the time:

When he denies what we ask, he gives what is much more to our advantage; we ask for ease, he gives patience.

Jesus heals the nobleman’s son in His own way (verse 50).  He does so from a distance, for all things are possible with a sovereign God.  He tells the man to return to his house, his son is healed.

Note that the man is satisfied.  He does not persist in asking Jesus again, nor does He doubt the healing.  His faith is now whole, even through that short interchange and a remote miracle.  He does as Jesus asked, automatically, and departs for home.

His servants meet him part way along the journey back to Capernaum to announce the good news that the son has completely recovered (verse 51).  A good servant is by nature interested in his employer and his family.  Their concerns become his concerns, their joy his joy.  They are no doubt just as relieved and happy as he is that the boy is well.  This also indicates something about the nobleman as a master;  he must have been good to his servants for them to leave the house and meet him on his way home.  He must have inspired and retained their loyalty over the years.

In verse 52, we read that the nobleman asks when his son was cured.  It’s an interesting question; how many people would ask?  Yet, Matthew Henry tells us it is an important one:

[1.] It is good to furnish ourselves with all the corroborating proofs and evidences that may be, to strengthen our faith in the word of Christ, that it may grow up to a full assurance. Show me a token for good. [2.] The diligent comparison of the works of Christ with his word will be of great use to us for the confirming of our faith. This was the course the nobleman took: He enquired of the servants the hour when he began to amend; and they told him, Yesterday at the seventh hour (at one o’clock in the afternoon, or, as some think this evangelist reckons, at seven o’clock at night) the fever left him; not only he began to amend, but he was perfectly well on a sudden; so the father knew that it was at the same hour when Jesus said to him, Thy son liveth. As the word of God, well-studied, will help us to understand his providences, so the providence of God, well observed, will help us to understand his word; for God is every day fulfilling the scripture.

And in that way, the nobleman knew that the cure which Jesus effected from afar was done as soon as he requested it in faith and humility (verse 53).  In the second part of that verse, we discover that the entire household — servants included — believed in Jesus.  Again, this points to the nobleman’s integrity.  As Matthew Henry explains:

Because of the influence the master of the family had upon them all. A master of a family cannot give faith to those under his charge, nor force them to believe, but he may be instrumental to remove external prejudices, which obstruct the operation of the evidence, and then the work is more than half done. Abraham was famous for this (Gen. 18:19), and Joshua, ch. 24:15. This was a nobleman, and probably he had a great household; but, when he comes into Christ’s school, he brings them all along with him. What a blessed change was here in this house, occasioned by the sickness of the child!

He adds useful advice about sickness, and this might be hard for us to receive, worthwhile though it is:

This should reconcile us to afflictions; we know not what good may follow from them.

In this case, not only did Jesus heal a sick child, He also brought a household to faith.

Henry writes that this miracle and mass conversion might have had some bearing on Jesus’s making Capernaum the centre of His ministry in Galilee.

The chapter closes with a mention that this is the second miracle that Jesus performed when He entered Galilee from Judea.  The first was the miracle at Cana (John 2).  So, Jesus had gone to Galilee from Judea previously, and this was His second trip which He made the same way.  Henry interprets this verse for us:

In Judea he had wrought many miracles, ch. 3:2; 4:45. They had the first offer; but, being driven thence, he wrought miracles in Galilee. Somewhere or other Christ will find a welcome. People may, if they please, shut the sun out of their own houses, but they cannot shut it out of the world. This is noted to be the second miracle, 1. To remind us of the first, wrought in the same place some months before. Fresh mercies should revive the remembrance of former mercies, as former mercies should encourage our hopes of further mercies. Christ keeps account of his favours, whether we do or no. 2. To let us know that this cure was before those many cures which the other evangelists mention to be wrought in Galilee, Mt. 4:23; Mk. 1:34; Lu. 4:40. Probably, the patient being a person of quality, the cure was the more talked of and sent him crowds of patients; when this nobleman applied himself to Christ, multitudes followed. What abundance of good may great men do, if they be good men!

Next week: John 6:1-3

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