Don’t Miss the Savior | John 4:43-54
So, Jesus is finally going to finish his trip back up to Galilee, but we might be surprised at his attitude. His attitude is a little odd, not only toward the Galileans who are so happy to welcome him back into the area, but even toward an official who comes to him desperate and pleading for Jesus to heal his dying son. So, I’m going to ask Grace Buller to come read for us John 4:43-54. By default, little Evangelina is coming up as well. John 4:43-54. Grace, take it away.
43 After the two days he departed for Galilee. 44 (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) 45 So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.
46 So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless yousee signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.51 As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household. 54 This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.
Thank you, Grace. At first glance, this may seem like a pretty straightforward story. Jesus comes into Galilee. The Galileans are happy to see him. They welcome him as he arrives. Then an official who probably works for Herod Antipas, when he hears that Jesus is in Galilee, he makes the 25-mile trip from Capernaum to Cana where Jesus was. Why? Because his son was at the point of death, and so he asks Jesus to come to his home and heal his son. Jesus says, “Go, your son will live.” That was enough for the man, he went back, and sure enough, his son was healed. And then he found out that his son began to get better at the exact hour that Jesus had said to him the day before, “Your son will live.” And then, guess what? This official and his entire household believed in Jesus. They believed in him as the Messiah.
That seems like a pretty straightforward story. And honestly, the parts of the story I just told give an awesome picture of Jesus’ power over the natural realm, and his ability to heal someone that was 25 miles away. All Jesus needed to do, was say the word. In fact, technically, he didn’t even have to say the word. He just had to will it, and it was going to happen! That is the power of our Savior. That is the nature of his divinityeven as he was somehow still fully part of humanity. We’re going to see that throughout the gospel of John, and you can see it in the other gospels as well. Jesus performing miracles proves who He is. He is certainly not merely a man just like any other man.
Now, what I want to do this morning is invite you along in a discovery trip with me. I want to invite you, especially, to open up your Bibles withme. One of my primary goals, as your pastor, is to let God’s Word speak for itself. My goal is for you, as much as possible, to hear from the Lord, and not just from me. We don’t use the Bible as a springboard to talk about whatever we want to talk about. Nor do I just give you some encouraging, Christian thoughts, and use the Bible to back it up. Our goal at Raintree is to dig into the Word to see what God is communicating through a particular text. I don’t want you to just listen to me this morning. That’d be like travelling to the edge of the Grand Canyon together, and yet instead of getting out and looking for yourself, you settle for staying in the car, and having me tell you all about it when I get back. That makes no sense. I want to be your guide into the Grand Canyon, into this glorious thing called the Word of God. I want you to look for yourself. So, with that in mind, let’s look together.
And I say that, particularly today, because this is a little bit harder of a text, in that some of the meaning isn’t quite as easy to come by. There are two verses in these 12, 2 parts of this story that are a bit of a conundrum as to what they mean. The first one is right at the beginning. Look back at verses 43 and 44. They had spent two days in Samaria, and then: “After the two days Jesus departed for Galilee. (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown).”
Now here’s the part that’s hard to understand. Jesus’ actual hometown, Nazareth, is in Galilee. You can see that here behind me on the map. The language here seems to imply that he’s leavinghis hometown or homeland, since a prophet has no honor in his hometown. But, he is not leaving the land of his hometown, he’s travelling INTO the land of his hometown. Right? Remember, he’s travelling from Judea to Galilee, with the two-day stop in Samaria. So, contextually, it’s safe to assume that he can’t be talking about Nazareth when he makes this negative statement about his hometown. And “hometown” and “homeland” is the same word in the Greek, so it doesn’t have to be referring to his hometown of Nazareth. So, what “homeland” is he talking about?
Homeland: a Few Options
There’s a few options here: one option is that he’s talking about Judea. Even though he didn’t come straight from Judea, because he stopped in Samaria, that was the goal of the trip, to get from Judea to Galilee. So why would he refer to Judea as his “homeland?” Well, because Jerusalem is in Judea. No matter where they were actually from, Jews during this time considered Jerusalem to be their virtual hometown. That’s where the temple was. So, when he says, “A prophet has no honor in his hometown,” it might make sense that he’s talking about Jerusalem. He certainly had had issues in Jerusalem with the Pharisees. The writer here, John, even brought up in 2:24 that Jesus did not entrust himself to them. So, even though some had believed, most rejected him! And Jerusalem was the hub for Jewish culture. It would have been the perfect place for the JewishMessiah to be first accepted and celebrated! But it wasn’t. Jerusalem is where Jesus has already faced opposition, and we’ll see this even more when we get into chapter 5.
So that’s at least part of the answer. Jesus is leaving Samaria (ultimately, Judea) for Galilee, which makes sense, because Jesus was not going to receive honor in Judea, his virtual homeland. That seems to make sense, especially with the Galileans being so happy to see him! Verse 45: “So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.” Judea was rejecting him, and now Galilee was welcoming him!
At least, sort of. They welcomed him because they had seen all that he had done. This goes to help us understand the 2ndpart of this story that’s a bit of a conundrum. Look at verses 46 and 47:
46 So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.
It makes sense that this desperate man with a dying son would make the 25-mile trek from Capernaum to see Jesus. By this time, what Jesus had done in turning the water into wine, that was likely the biggest news to hit this area in quite some time. In other words, everyone knew that this had happened. It was a big deal. So, of course, this man, who knows that Jesus is able to perform miracles, goes to Jesus to ask him to come to his home and heal his son. But, the unusual part, the part we might need to figure out is Jesus’ first response to this man. You might think of this as a harsh response to a man with the dying son. Verse 48:
48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.”
This is a rebuke, but it’s not a rebuke aimed primarily at the man asking Jesus to heal his son. The “you” there, “unless you see signs and wonders,” that “you” is plural. He’s speaking to all the Galileans there who so excitedly welcomed him back into Galilee. So, Jesus thinks that this man’s request is typical of the Jews to demand a sign. If you remember back to right after Jesus cleansed the temple by running in and turning tables over and everything, the Jews asked him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” The Jews wanted signs and wonders, and Jesus here uses the man’s request as an opportunity to rebuke all of them.
So why is he rebuking these Jews, especially when they had so enthusiastically welcomed him back from Galilee? It’s because Jesus apparently knows that they’re not there to follow him, and certainly not to place saving faith in him, knowing they need a Savior. They’re there for a show! They’re there to see Jesus perform, to see him perform miracles!
Now listen, Jesus is able to perform miracles, and miracles have a place in the Christian faith. There is no doubt about it. In this very account, Jesus does go on to heal this official’s son, right? In case you’re wondering about him being so mean to the desperate man, he does heal his son. Jesus heals, he performs miracles, back then as well as today. But it’s almost as if Jesus doesn’t want them to miss the point. Jesus’ significance is not merely about these miracles he can perform, or about any other kind of show they were wanting. Jesus’ significance is in who He is. He is God in the flesh, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
People may come to a place where they are curious about Jesus, but if that curiosity does not change into belief and hope in Jesus, then they’ve missed the Savior. They’ve missed who Jesus really is. There were Jews to the south who only thought of Jesus as a threat to their influence. Now, also, there were Jews to the north who thought of Jesus as a rock star of sorts, with his awesome performances! Again, yes, he did miraculous things, but all of those miracles were to point them to the ultimate miracle, the salvation that he was going to accomplish for the world. So many of them miss the Savior, miss who Jesus really is.
Now, later in the story, this official came to understand who Jesus is, not only someone who can and did save his son from death, but also the one to save him and his whole family from eternal death. Verse 53: “He himself believed, he and all his household.” But for the vast majority of these Galileans who were so excited to welcome Jesus back from Judea, they were excited, but there was no meaningful content to their excitement. There was hype, but there was no substance, no true faith. No understanding of their sin and desperate need for a Savior. Instead, they just wanted a show.
I want us to step back for a little bit and seeFour Takeaways from Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. This is sort of summary takeaways from John chapter 4:
- Don’t mistake Jesus for mere influence.
I’m not talking about the Galileans who were so excited to see him, but instead the Jews in Jerusalem, in particular. I’m moving us back to the south for a moment, to the ones who saw him as a threat, and who will continue to see him as a threat as we work our way through John. Listen, don’t mistake Jesus for merely someone who mighthave influence over you. He is LORD. It’s funny, for these Jews who thought he might be a threat to their own authority and power, Jesus does not deny their fears. He confirms them to the uttermost! Yes, Jesus is not only one influence among many, He is THE influence. He is LORD. God in the flesh. He’s not merely an influence. So, from the Judean Jews in the south, and the warning we see from them, we move now to the Galilean Jews. Takeaway #2:
- Don’t mistake Jesus for a novelty.
We know how happy the Galileans are in seeing Jesus return, so excited, especially because some of them had been there in Jerusalem to see his awesome miracles. So, they’re excited, but apparently there isn’t much substance to their excitement. In fact, in chapter 6, Jesus is back in Galilee yet again, which we’ll see in a few weeks. And apparently even those who do claim to follow him, many of them stop following him after he gives some hard teaching! John 6:66 says, “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.”
For many of these Galileans, Jesus was a novelty—he was the new, exciting next big thing. But as soon as things got difficult in any way, they left. They did not believe like Jesus’ truedisciples believed. In that same story in John 6, aftermany leave Jesus, he turns to his disciples and says, “Do you want to go away as well?” And Peter answers, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Do you see the difference between those that left and those that stayed? Don’t mistake Jesus for mere novelty. He’s the Holy One of God. The only way to come to him in true saving faith is by starting with the question, “Where else can we go?” By realizing there is no other option!
How easy it is to follow Jesus only when we feel like it. When it feels new. Or when it feels like he’s fulfilling a unique part of your life. When you’re excited to follow him. But Jesus is not a novelty to be made use of only when we’re excited or when we feel like it. The hardest, and yet perhaps the most important times, for us to follow Jesus are when we do not feel like it. When the shine wears off, and when the Christian life feels overwhelming and even seemingly impossible. We follow Him because He first loved us. We follow him, because He is faithful even when we are not. Don’t mistake Jesus for mere novelty. Don’t just follow Him when you’re excited to follow Him. For the third takeaway we move, specifically, to the official with the dying son.
- Don’t mistake Jesus for a genie.
Don’t just expect Jesus to just give you what you want. Now, I don’t know for sure that that’s the attitude of the official whose son is dying. We don’t know that for sure, but there is a marked difference between this official and the centurion who had the servant who was dying in Luke 7. In that account, Jesus was on his way to the centurion’s home, and this centurion ended up sending some friends to Jesus to tell him not to come, because he felt that he wasn’t even worthy of having Jesus in his home. He even said, “That’s why I do not even presume to come to you myself.” Like, wow! He treated Jesus as much more than merely someone who could heal his servant.
Here in John 4, this man is clearly desperate, but apparently, he doesn’t truly recognize who Jesus is until the end of the chapter, after Jesus decides to heal his son despite his not respecting Jesus like he should have. So, at first, perhaps, he saw Jesus maybe like one would see a genie.
This is something that I can’t help but see as a serious issue with how many of us view Jesus. When we pray, are we primarily asking for things? Or do we recognize who it is we’re speaking to, and so worship him in our prayer. Just admire his perfections and his holiness and his love for us? Because there’s nothing wrong with asking Jesus for things! This man did, and Jesus healed his son! Philippians 4:6-7 command us make requests and supplications. It would be inappropriate if we DIDN’T make requests, and ask God to heal Reba, as a perfect example.
Of course we ask, and even beg the Lord for healing, which praise the Lord He is answering those prayers in the affirmative at least to an extent. Specifically, our prayer and her prayer has been to have longer, an extension, and it seems that God is answering with a “yes.” Certainly longer than the month that was originally given to her without treatment.
Of course, we ask. But we ask knowing Jesus is much more than a genie. We ask knowing he has grander plans than we do. We ask with a desire to be part of his grand plans even when those plans might contradict our own plans that we have. We ask, knowing we are not worthy in and of ourselves to even have an audience with the Lord Jesus, much less an ear that will actually listen. We’re not worthy, but he does listen. Unbelievably, this Holy One of God listens and has mercy.
I’ve used this analogy before, but I don’t think we realize how much we perceive Jesus as some sort of divine soccer-mom, on the sidelines cheering us on and there for us when we determine we need her. When I get a skinned knee, I’ll run over to her and let her kiss it. But other than that, her purpose is to cheer meon in myplans and mygoals in life. That’s not Jesus! He’s not a genie. He’s not a soccer-mom. He is GOD in the flesh. His glory is all that matters, and he so graciously chose you and me to be part of his grand plans in showcasing his glory, especially in saving his people through his son Jesus.
So, he’s not merely an influence, not a mere novelty, and certainly not some kind of genie. And therefore, the last takeaway:
- Don’t be a fan; be a believer.
Taking the Galileans, specifically, as an example. Do not merely be a Jesus fan or enthusiast. Listen: you can be a fan and not be a believer! You can think highly of Jesus, and even praise him with words, and not truly understand the significance of who Jesus is.
This is what makes John 4 so unique, especially with the account of Jesus stopping in Samaria. John the evangelist wrote this book, specifically to convince Greek Jews of who Jesus was. So, the interesting question, here, is, why did John include Samaria in his account? Jews and Samaritans hate each other, and he wrote this book to reach Jews, so why include his stop in Samaria? We know John took some liberties on what to include in this book and what to leave out. We know that from the end of the book, John 21:25- “There are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” So, if that’s the case, why include Jesus talking with the Samaritan woman, and then staying there two days? Why would he include that when the book is written mainly so that Jewswould believe!?
Because he wants readers, like you and me, and God wants readers, like you and me, to realize what it truly means to believe in Jesus. He doesn’t want us to mistake the historical Jesus who came to save the world, for a novelty or a genie. You can claim religion all you want; As Christians, we can claim we love Jesus all we want, but Judea and Galilee serve as a warning: Do not miss who Jesus really is! Do not assume, because of your heritage, because maybe you grew up in church, that you know who Jesus is!
Don’t think of Jesus as a genie, don’t just be a fan, instead: BELIEVE! TRUST in him like the Samaritans. Of all people, there’s no greater group to make us question whether or not we think we bring anything to the table. Whether or not we can offer anything to God to impress him. Jesus accepted the Samaritans, and they had nothing! The Samaritans were corrupt, no longer Jewish at all but still claiming a Jewish heritage, and yet they were the ones who understood Jesus as the Messiah. They were the ones who Jesus stayed with for two days. They were the ones not only interested in what Jesus could do, but were interested in Jesus himself. And eventually that interest turned into belief. “Indeed this is the Savior of the World.”
Sometimes we forget, or maybe some of us don’t even know this. Sometimes we think, like the Jews did, that faith in Jesus is something you inherit. You inherited it from your family, or you inherited it by being an American, or a Missourian, for me as a Texan. Maybe we don’t think that, but that’s just how it happened. We slipped into faith. We just sort-of settled into believing in Jesus. It’s kind of a given.
If we see anything from this story, it’s that Jesus does not care about your heritage. Of all people, the Samaritans had no heritage to be proud of. The Jews of the day would say they should be ashamed of their heritage. From the opposition of the Jews in Judea, to the 2-day stay in Sychar with the Samaritans, and even to the excited Galileans and this desperate official just wanting his son to live, we see one clear warning: Do not miss the Savior.
Like the Samaritans, see Jesus, indeed, as the Savior of the world! Like the Samaritans, come to Jesus for salvation from your sin, not just because he’s new and shiny. Like the Samaritans, of all people, stay with him, listen to what he says, and trust in him alone. Like the Samaritans, don’t be interested in Jesus just because of what he can do, as if he was a genie or a novelty, be drawn to Jesus himself: Indeed, the Savior of the world.